Calcutta, Dec. 1: Soon after the clock struck 12, scores of state-owned and private buses, minibuses, trucks, trams, taxis and autorickshaws halted at major intersections.
Behind the stalled wheels was the army of Citu supporters. At many points, they stopped their vehicles and left, to come back after half-an-hour, the duration of what the Citu called chakka jam.
Police looked the other way.
People stuck in crippled traffic for hours in the backwash of this new method of protest had different tales to tell, but Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government claimed that the Citu action was a flop.
'The reports I have received suggest it is not at all successful,' said chief secretary Ashok Gupta.
No less than transport minister Subhas Chakraborty disagreed. 'My reports say chakka bandh was hugely successful. There was no way it could have been thwarted along the lines the court wanted because we could not have beaten the operators into plying their vehicles during that period.'
Esplanade and Maniktala crossings were blocked by trams, but traffic policemen on duty did not try to make the drivers clear the blockade.
A handful of bus drivers, who tried to keep their wheels running, were stopped by Citu activists.
At several places ' like Dum Dum, Nagerbazar, Lake Town-VIP Road crossing and Park Circus ' the protest was less novel. Citu supporters simply blocked the roads.
Several participants headed to an information technology conference, where industry leaders were speaking, turned back after hitting a traffic wall.
Aggressively soliciting infotech investment in Bengal, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee evaded the question why the government could not enforce the court order directing that traffic should be kept normal.
'Direct your questions to Citu,' he said.
Rival Mamata Banerjee, accused the government of complicity with Citu. 'They (Citu) paid no attention to the court order and did what they felt like after co-opting the government and the police into it,' Mamata said.
It did not occur to her that she herself is ignoring a court order against her bandh call.