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Tata Will Go Ahead With Indian Auto Factory, Despite Opposition &

Plans for plant come under fire from farmers, politicians.

NEW DELHI, India (AP) - The chief of India's Tata Group said Wednesday his company has no intention of scaling back its plans for a new car factory in eastern India, despite widespread local opposition and a prolonged hunger strike by a politician opposed to the project.

The government of West Bengal state sold fertile agricultural land to Tata Motors Ltd., a division of Tata Group, for a factory to make small cars. The plan has sparked repeated protests from farmers and opposition politicians, who earlier this month ransacked parts of the state legislature.

The leader of the opposition Trinamul Congress party, Mamta Banerjee, has even been on a hunger strike for 24 days to protest the planned factory.

But Tata on Wednesday made it clear it intends to go ahead with plans for the new factory.

''I think the West Bengal government has been very steadfast in its support of the project and I think it would be wrong for us to say that we will pull out and go,'' Rattan Tata, the group's chief, said in an interview broadcast by the New Delhi Television news channel.

He called West Bengal, a state governed by communists, ''investment friendly.''

Tata also said it was not just politics, but also business competitors, who were encouraging the trouble in West Bengal state.

However, Madan Mitra, a spokesman for the Trinamul Congress party, accused Tata of playing politics and said Banerjee's protest was not being funded by Tata's business rivals.

Mitra said his party planned to start holding protests outside Tata Group offices to press for shifting the proposed car factory from Singur, a village about 18 miles northwest of Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal state, to some other place.

Tata Group is one of India's leading business conglomerates with interests spanning steel, software services, hotels, chemicals and insurance. Its vehicle division, Tata Motors Ltd., makes cars, buses and trucks.