Calcutta, Jan. 19: Mamata Banerjee today told her supporters at a rally in Esplanade not to resort to roadblocks, but the meeting where the chief minister delivered the sermon blocked an arterial road in the city centre.
Traffic in central Calcutta went haywire this afternoon because of the rally and the ripple effect lasted well into the evening.
Mamata, however, defended from the dais the selection of the venue, where police have denied permission to other parties to hold meetings.
“Do not block roads while protesting…. We held the rally today because it’s a Saturday, but we don’t hold meetings (blocking roads) on weekdays,” the chief minister said.
Thousands were inconvenienced as both the north and south-bound flanks of JL Nehru Road in front of Metro Cinema remained blocked between 1pm and 5pm.
All south-bound buses were diverted through Ganesh Chandra Avenue while northbound buses were rerouted through Mayo Road.
Even Dorina Crossing, the main intersection at the city centre, was not spared as Trinamul supporters squatted on the road with the police turning a blind eye.
“The rally venue is not packed. Those who are sitting on the road can easily go to the rally venue,” a police officer said.
Howrah-bound vehicles from SN Banerjee Road were diverted to the Park Street crossing, from where they took Mayo Road to reach Strand Road.
“We have to travel around 3km extra and will take about 15 minutes more,” said Sanjoy De, who was going to Howrah.
“It took me 25 minutes to come to Park Street from Chandni Chowk. The journey usually takes about five minutes. My car was diverted through Lenin Sarani from Esplanade,” an advertising professional said.
Today’s Trinamul rally ended an unofficial six-month ban on such programmes at Metro Channel.
“We wanted to hold a meeting at Metro Channel on October 1. Our first choice was in front of Victoria House, where Trinamul’s July 21 (martyrs’ day) rally is held. Our second choice was Metro Channel, but police didn’t give us permission for either,” said CPM leader Rabin Deb.
“It shows how biased the administration is. The police had told us they don’t allow any political meeting at Metro Channel,” Deb said.
The BJP too alleged bias, but on another count.
The party had been denied permission to hold a rally on Rani Rashmoni Avenue on December 1 because it clashed with President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Calcutta.
“We were denied permission since the President was supposed to be in Calcutta on that day. But the Trinamul meeting was permitted today even though the President is in Calcutta,” said Rahul Sinha, the state BJP president.
Calcutta High Court had expressed concern over rallies at the central business district. A petition demanding a ban on all rallies in the area is pending in the high court.