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Rush to share Rahul stage

Calcutta, March 23: A scramble has begun among Congress leaders to share the dais with Rahul Gandhi at the workers’ meeting on Tuesday as the Special Protection Group has said it won’t allow more than 11 persons to join the party vice-president on the stage.

Congress sources said the leaders who could share the stage with Rahul at the programme on the Shahid Minar grounds were state party president Adhir Chowdhury, and senior leaders Pradip Bhattacharya, Somen Mitra and Manas Bhuniya.

Junior Union ministers Deepa Das Munshi and Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury, and Congress MPs Mausam Noor, Abhijit Mukherjee and Mannan Hossain could also be on the dais with Rahul, the sources added.

“We are being flooded with requests from party leaders and workers who want to share the dais with Rahulji. Accommodating everybody is not possible as the SPG will allow only 11 persons,” a senior Congress leader said.

The Bengal Congress has urged SPG officials to allow a few more persons on the stage. “A discussion is on with SPG officials. But we are yet to get a clearance,” the leader added.

According to standard procedure, the SPG allows nine persons on a dais with leaders it protects. Sources said that other than Rahul, the SPG provided security to the Prime Minister, Sonia Gandhi, her daughter Priyanka and Priyanka’s husband Robert Vadra.

SPG officials who have been camping in Calcutta since last Monday said it was not possible to allow more than 11 persons. They added they allowed 11 Congress leaders to share the dais with Rahul in Bhubaneswar on February 11 following a request by him.

The officials, however, will allow a special stage beside Rahul’s dais for leaders who would not get a place on the main platform.

Congress Legislature Party leader Mohammad Sohrab said he wanted to share the stage with the Congress vice-president. “But I don’t know if I will be accommodated,” he said.