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Buses to trains, effort pays off in Brigade

The crowd at the Left’s Brigade rally on Sunday. Picture by Amit Datta

Feb. 9: The “impressive” turnout at the Left’s Brigade rally today was the culmination of months of effort to mobilise people despite alleged Trinamul threats, several leaders who attended the meeting said.

The turnout at today’s rally ranged between four lakh and five lakh, sources said, against the BJP’s one lakh and the Trinamul’s 10 lakh-odd at the same venue on February 5 and January 30, respectively.

According to Left leaders, the party units’ efforts bore fruit especially in the districts. While Gautam Deb, the CPM district secretary in North 24-Parganas, went to Delhi to organise special trains from the suburbs, many braved the odds to mobilise crowds from places where the Left organisation has suffered huge setbacks in successive elections since 2011.

Prominent among the districts that pulled in respectable crowds to the Brigade Parade grounds today were Burdwan, North and South 24-Parganas and Bankura.

The Left turnout is expected to boost the morale of party cadres before the Lok Sabha polls, due in May. The earlier rallies by the BJP and Trinamul at the same venue were billed as shows of strength and both posed a challenge to the Left in terms of attendance.

Burdwan, whose CPM leadership faced criticism of Alimuddin Street for pulling out of the municipal polls last year citing Trinamul terror, contributed in large measure to bring in party supporters.

The CPM’s district secretary in Burdwan, Amal Haldar, not only toured the remote areas of the district for at least 10 times to garner support, he also allotted crowd quotas to the party’s local committees, sources in the district said. He was also proactive in helping the CPM unit in adjoining Bankura, arranging for around 150 buses from Burdwan, Durgapur and Asansol to ferry comrades from there.

“Our activists left for the rally early in the morning in hired private buses and trains, braving intimidation and threats from Trinamul activists. The turnout was impressive, a result of months of effort,” said Achintya Mullick, a CPM district secretariat member of Burdwan. He claimed nearly 1.5 lakh people participated in the rally from the district.

Former minister Deb organised as many as 40 meetings in his district, North 24-Parganas, to drum up support for the meeting, party leaders said. He travelled the extra mile to Delhi to urge the railway ministry for special trains from Barrackpore, Bongaon and Barasat.

“We are told that Gautam da also requested junior railway minister Adhir Chowdhury for help in this regard,’’ a CPM leader said.

Repeated calls to Chowdhury’s cellphone went unanswered.

South 24-Parganas was also a major contributor. People came in hordes from Diamond Harbour, Canning, Bhangar and Baruipur-Sonarpur because of the combined efforts of the CPM and the RSP that have considerable presence in the district. Veteran CPM MLA from the district Abdur Rezzak Mollah was seen at Brigade this afternoon, but was learnt not to have done much to boost the count.

The CPM leadership, a source said, was “very doubtful’’ about the crowd count from Hooghly and the two Midnapores, now Trinamul bastions. CPM state secretary Biman Bose had admitted at yesterday’s state committee meeting that Trinamul terror in these districts could affect the footfall at the Brigade grounds.

“For the past two weeks, Trinamul workers had been roaming around on bikes and threatening our men in both East and West Midnapore. The same happened in the Arambagh sub-division of Hooghly. Several party offices were forcibly closed down. But each of these districts sent as many as 30,000 cadres today,’’ a CPM state committee member said.

What also stood out in today’s rally was the presence of a large number of youths from the SFI and DYFI.

Asked about the Left turnout, Trinamul all-India general secretary Mukul Roy said: “Today’s rally did not have people’s spontaneous participation. This was a rally that had no direction for the people of Bengal.”