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CM acts, over to Mamata

Calcutta, Oct. 29: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee made his move today by unveiling a set of proposals to hold rallies without — he hoped — inconveniencing the citizen. It is now the turn of Mamata Banerjee to make the rally code work.

Her party, the Trinamul Congress, boycotted the all-party meeting Bhattacharjee had called to discuss his proposals that seek to restrict meetings to three spots in central Calcutta and one each in north, south and east and suggest that big rallies should be held only on Saturday, Sunday and holidays.

Bhattacharjee’s draft is being sent to Mamata for her response.

Routes have been laid down for processions and Bhattacharjee said after the meeting that there was consensus on marching along the left flank of the road, allowing flow of traffic. Religious processions will also have to abide by the rally code.

The proposals stop short of Justice Amitava Lala’s order prohibiting rallies on weekdays between 8 am and 8 pm, but the chief minister said the effort would be to hold meetings on holidays.

An “effort” such as this cannot succeed without the main Opposition party’s cooperation. Bhattacharjee said: “I wanted Trinamul and SUCI (which too stayed away from the meeting) to join the deliberations today, and with this in view I called their leaders and urged them not to boycott.”

Neither responded. Mamata’s spokesman, Mukul Roy, denied that the chief minister had spoken to Trinamul.

But Subrata Mukherjee, a senior Trinamul leader, said: “He had asked me to ensure Trinamul’s attendance and promised to provide us with a copy of the draft proposal at the meeting. But I don’t know whether talking to me was the same as talking to the party.”

Trinamul had announced the boycott on the excuse that it had not received a copy of the draft.

Bhattacharjee said: “I told them that they may have contrary views, but they should come and place them in the meeting. They did not come. Nevertheless, we will send them a copy of the draft and seek their opinion in writing within a week.”

“The chief minister always reacts late. We had sought the draft earlier. What was the harm in sending it to us a few days ago' Anyway, we can only comment after we receive it,” said Pankaj Banerjee, the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.

Bhattacharjee stressed that organisers of rallies would have to mandatorily acquire police permission — a requirement that exists but is not honoured.

He said if rallies are to be held on weekdays, the organisers will have to seek permission much in advance.

The Congress and the BJP attended the meeting but did not raise any major objections to the proposals.

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