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Army surrenders Brigade to rally

Calcutta, Dec. 22: Political power has outgunned the Indian Army.

Brigade Parade Grounds will be thrown open to a CPM affiliate for a rally next week, marking a humiliating retreat for the army that had denied permission for the programme yesterday.

The army’s resolve to protect the sprawling grounds collapsed after politicians in Delhi and Calcutta came together and piled pressure to let the CPM-backed Coordination Committee of State Government Employees and Associations hold the rally at the Brigade on Wednesday.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee and several leaders of the CPM, its allies and the Congress got busy during the day to make the Eastern Command of the army agree to the December 28 rally.

Michhil hobe (the rally will take place)' there’ll be no problem relating to this,” said chief minister Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings this afternoon.

Asked if he had taken up the issue with Mukherjee, he refused comment.

Officials of the chief minister’s secretariat, however, said Bhattacharjee spoke to Mukherjee during the day and the latter assured him of help.

“We’re expecting to get approval from the army tomorrow,” said chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb. Home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy echoed him.

“We’re likely to get clearance tomorrow,” Roy said, adding that the army was likely to impose a caution fee for all future use of the Maidan.

However, the caution fee will not be imposed on the co-ordination committee programme and a CPM rally on January 8 since applications for permission have already been made to the army.

The CPM threw its weight behind the breach-Brigade drive as it realised that the party rally proposed for January 8 would be in jeopardy if it were denied permission at Brigade Parade Grounds.

Fort William refused comment.

“I cannot offer comment on this issue since a case is pending before the court. As for granting permission for Brigade Parade Grounds, I’m not aware as nothing has moved through me,” said Arun Roye, the general officer commanding (Bengal area).

Till yesterday, the army had held that it would not allow any more events on the ground as it wanted to bring the Maidan “back to its pristine glory”.

Fort William had indicated that it would remain consistent with this policy and would not allow any other programme since “political rallies, book fairs and such events leave a lot of litter behind”.

Over 1 lakh supporters of the co-ordination committee are expected to play havoc with the city traffic when they assemble in the heart of the city for the December 28 michhil.

“We’re yet to receive a formal intimation from the army. We’ll be very happy if the army allows us use of the Brigade. Things will become very chaotic if we have to organise the programme at Rani Rashmoni Avenue,” said Jyoti Prasad Basu, general secretary of the committee.

The committee had chosen Rani Rashmoni Avenue as an alternative site after it was informed yesterday that the Brigade would be kept out of bounds for the programme.

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