| Mamata Banerjee greets George Fernandes at the rally. Picture by Pabitra Das
Calcutta, Jan. 6: Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today urged the anti-Left forces in Bengal to unite before the panchayat polls and pleaded the smaller partners in the Left Front to desert Big Brother CPM.
Addressing a Trinamul rally on the Brigade Parade Grounds here — her first major public meeting at the venue more than three years after she unveiled the much-hyped ‘Bengal package’ — she asked Centre to slap an “economic emergency” on the state.
But the show of NDA support for Mamata at the rally was, at best, token. Samata Party leader and defence minister George Fernandes showed up but none of the BJP’s central leaders did. State BJP president Tathagata Roy hardly made up for the absence of his high command.
Mamata took on the state government — for once without mentioning former chief minister Jyoti Basu — and hinted that she would join hands with the state BJP for the rural body polls scheduled for May.
Launching a scathing attack on the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government, she said: “Baamfront sharikder bolchhee. Kiser ato moho' Shorey aashun (I urge the Left Front partners to snap out of their CPM infatuation).”
Like in so many of her public speeches, Mamata pleaded all political forces inimical to the CPM to come together.
From Bapi Sen, the Calcutta police sergeant who gave his life for an unknown girl who was being teased by drunk constables on the night of December 31, to the government’s cash crunch, water tax, higher stamp duty, unemployment, distress sale of paddy, closed factories, power tariff hike, deaths of children in hospital, and CPM “atrocities” — Mamata left nothing out.
Fernandes criticised the front for its inability “to improve the quality of life and woo investment”.
The state BJP chief emphasised the need for an alliance with Trinamul to unseat the Left.
“In the panchayat polls, we will fight 1:1,” Mamata said, hinting at an alliance with the state BJP. She demanded that an “economic emergency” be imposed in the state and urged the Centre to intervene.
Sudip Bandopadhyay, the former Trinamul chief whip in the Lok Sabha, was present at the rally despite his strained relations with the party chief. But, perhaps for the first time, he was not invited to speak at a party meet.
Thousands of Trinamul supporters converged on the ground from various points in the city and outside this morning. Private buses, trucks and matador vans packed with supporters triggered a traffic chaos. Mamata arrived at 1.45 pm. The ground was full by then.
Trinamul claimed 500,000 people attended the rally. The police put the estimate at around 100,000.
Front chairman Biman Bose came down heavily on Mamata for organising the rally on a working day. “She had earlier promised not to hold rallies and meetings on weekdays because they disrupt life. She failed to keep her promise.”