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Brigade race hots up

Calcutta, Jan. 14: The race has begun for the show of strength at Brigade before the Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP will organise a “Run for Modi” in Calcutta on January 26 to drum up support for its prime ministerial candidate’s maiden Brigade rally on February 5.

Trinamul has fallen back on a time-tested formula for Mamata Banerjee’s Brigade rally on January 30. It is organising rallies, street-corner meetings and padayatras, and making announcements in neighbourhoods.

After inaugurating a “NaMo tea stall” outside Howrah station today, state BJP president Rahul Sinha said party supporters would take part in the “Run for Modi”, which would begin at 9am from Girish Park and end in front of Sir Asutosh Mukherjee’s statue near the Esplanade crossing.

“We are doing whatever we can to make Narendrabhai’s rally a success. Not just our supporters but eminent citizens such as Sourav Ganguly will be invited to hear him spell out his vision for the country. Five lakh shopkeepers will also be invited,” Sinha said.

While footfall at public meetings do not necessarily translate into votes, a low turnout ahead of a crucial election can hurt the morale of party cadres.

In its heyday, the well-oiled Left Front machinery used to hold annual rallies at Brigade to packed crowds. The Left was often accused of ensuring that the Opposition never managed to match it crowd-for-crowd at Brigade, which holds four lakh people.

Even Mamata rarely held rallies at Brigade as the Opposition leader, opting for the Esplanade crossing near Victoria House for Trinamul’s annual July 21 “martyrs’ day” programme.

Trinamul sources said party MPs and MLAs and leaders of frontal organisations had been told to organise at least two rallies daily in the run-up to Mamata’a January 30 Brigade show.

Posters and banners have been put up all over Calcutta informing people about Mamata’s rally.

“We expect to hold more than 1,000 meetings to campaign for the rally. A grand turn-out will boost the morale of our workers and dent the confidence of the Opposition before the Lok Sabha polls,” a Trinamul general secretary said.

Trinamul all-India general secretary Mukul Roy, secretary-general Partha Chatterjee and state president Subrata Bakshi visited Brigade today to discuss traffic arrangements on the day of the rally.

“The turnout will break all records. We are trying to make arrangements to ensure that people are not inconvenienced,” Chatterjee said.

Trinamul supporters are expected to start arriving at the city at least three days before the rally.

The All-India United Democratic Front has planned to hold a rally at Brigade in the first week of March.