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Rahul venue scramble

Calcutta, March 20: The state Congress has sought the army’s permission to hold Rahul Gandhi’s workers’ convention on the Shahid Minar grounds after being denied the use of Netaji Indoor Stadium or the Park Circus Maidan by the administration.

“We were denied permission to hold Rahulji’s programme either at Netaji Indoor Stadium or at Park Circus Maidan on March 25. As the last resort, we have chosen the Shahid Minar ground for the workers’ convention,” Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury said tonight.

Congress spokesperson Nirbed Roy said the state unit was hoping to get the army’s nod tomorrow.

Several Congress leaders, including MP Pradip Bhattacharya, accused the state government of being “autocratic and undemocratic”.

“If chief minister Mamata Banerjee can address a meeting in a Malda stadium at a time the higher-secondary exams are going on, why were we denied permission to organise Rahulji’s convention at the venues of our choice?” Bhattacharya asked.

In April last year, the state BJP had expressed its unhappiness at being denied the use of Netaji Indoor Stadium for a convention addressed by Narendra Modi. The event was held at Mahajati Sadan.

Congress leaders said tonight that the March 25 convention would be held in a covered area and no loudspeakers would be used in view of the exams. “Rahulji’s address to party workers is expected to start around 1.30pm, by which time that day’s exams would be over,” Roy said.

State Congress general secretary Maya Ghosh had called up the sports department a week ago to enquire if Netaji Indoor Stadium could be booked on March 25. “We were told the stadium had already been booked by a private company on that day,” Ghosh said, adding that the party then sought Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s permission to use Park Circus Maidan.

Roy said mayor Sovan Chatterjee told him yesterday that permission to organise the meeting at Park Circus Maidan could not be given because of the model code of conduct for the elections and the high court ban on the use of loudpeakers during exams.

“I had tried to reason with him that our programme won’t violate the model code, but he refused to listen to me,” Roy said.

Chatterjee told The Telegraph permission was denied because of the “model code”.