Calcutta, Feb. 13: If it is the Brigade, there must be a battle of numbers.
The Left has claimed that todays rally has broken all records in turnout, putting the number at 15 lakh. Police spoke of a figure ranging from 6-7 lakh while veteran journalists settled around 8 lakh.
Todays Brigade rally drew a bigger crowd than the one we had in November 1992. Nearly 15 lakh turned up for the rally, a record gathering in recent memory, said CPM state secretariat member Rabin Deb.
Deb referred to the winter of 1992 because four days before the CPM show that year, Mamata Banerjee had held her first Brigade rally. Mamata was then a minister of state in the Narasimha Rao government at the Centre. She was also the state Youth Congress president.
After breaking away from the Congress, she held her second mammoth rally at the Brigade on January 6, 2003, as Trinamul Congress chairperson.
Trinamul Congress and Congress leaders today contested Debs claim. So far as I remember, Mamatas twin rallies at the Brigade had a larger gathering than what the Left drew in todays rally, said Congress leader and state Intuc president Pradip Bhattacharya.
Trinamul secretary general Partha Chatterjee said there was no spontaneous crowd in todays rally. People were forced to join todays Brigade rally under threat. But people on their own spontaneously participated in Mamatas two Brigade rallies, he added.
A Trinamul general secretary said that if Mamata organised her annual martyrs rally at the Brigade on July 21 every year instead of Esplanade, the crowd would have been like that of todays Left Front rally.
Unlike the CPM, we deliberately avoid holding rallies at Brigade because they pose environmental problems, he said.
One consensus has more or less survived unscathed: the Brigade record goes to the Bangladesh liberation rally held by Indira Gandhi and Mujibur Rahman in 1972, drawing over 15 lakh.
A CPM leader claimed that a majority of those who did not vote for the Left during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls also attended todays rally. But he did not explain if the assumption was based on empirical data.