The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Front stops short of court defiance

Calcutta, Oct. 7: Pit the party, shield the government. Left Front strategy-makers seem to have made this the cornerstone of their battle against the judiciary that has called a halt to weekday rallies.

At tomorrow’s programme called to protest the rally ruling, the rulers of the state have decided to stop a step short of openly defying the court order and thus create a constitutional crisis which will suck in its own government.

First, the event will not be a rally, but a convention. Second, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is not going to be present there, nor will any of his government colleagues.

“We discussed the pros and cons of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s presence in Wednesday’s convention,” former chief minister Jyoti Basu told The Telegraph.

“He is not attending the convention,” added Bhattacharjee’s predecessor, also billed a star speaker at tomorrow’s programme.

The chief minister’s office confirmed that Bhattacharjee would attend two “administrative” programmes at Writers’ Buildings and Raj Bhavan around the same time the Mahajati Sadan convention kicks off at 5.30 pm.

The battle plan put together against Justice Amitava Lala’s September 29 order does not start with a defiant rally, as had appeared on Saturday when Front chairman Biman Bose declared the decision to hit the streets, but a convention that is expected not to mean pulverising the city with processions from all corners.

About 1,300 people can sit in the auditorium, with some spillover outside. Processions are not planned. If this means the Front is avoiding a confrontation with the court, the warning lies in what comes next.

The convention will be followed by rallies organised by various wings of Left Front partners, starting Monday.

After the CPM youth wings, the coordination committee of government employees announced its decision to take out a rally on October 14.

At the convention, which senior leaders will attend, the focus will be on picking “legal and theoretical holes” in the court’s order.

The very nomenclature chosen for the programme — “convention”, which appeared on the Front letter intimating Calcutta police about the schedule — was an indication to that, leaders said.

The promise not to bring in foot soldiers in processions — and the assurance that those invited would use “public or private conveyance” — was also made so as not to put the home (police) department (headed by Bhattacharjee) under any “undue pressure”, the leaders added.

A rally would have meant the police having to decide on the Hobson’s choice of whether to step in or not. Not acting would have meant incurring the court’s wrath and a crackdown would have involved confronting the ruling party and its allies.

Bose himself sought to lower the pitch at a meeting today when he said his comments, “basically against the court order and not against any member of the judiciary”, were “distorted” by the media. He was on television that day and it’s easy to find out who is distorting.

The decision to not involve the government in the street-level battle came after exchange of “innumerable” calls between the CPM headquarters, Alimuddin Street, and Writers’ Buildings through the day, sources said.

“We have not been asked to be present at Mahajati Sadan,” a senior minister said. Even if some members of the cabinet are there, they will in all likelihood be a part of the audience rather than flaunt their presence on the dais. The speakers are going to be the leaders who have already made public their misgivings about the ruling.

Prominent among them will be the CPM troika of Basu, Bose and party state secretary Anil Biswas. Also on the list of speakers will be representatives from the allies — the Forward Bloc, the CPI and the RSP.

Another less-publicised convention against the court restrictions on rallies took place at Nizam Palace today. Trinamul Congress leader Pankaj Banerjee and Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya spoke at the All-India Minority Forum-organised meet but both ended up criticising Bose for his “vitriolic” attack on the judiciary. Both said they would fight the strictures inside the court and in a “more dignified manner”.

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