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TMC rally ‘courtesy’

Calcutta, June 22: The Trinamul Congress tonight changed the route of a protest march in Calcutta tomorrow because it coincided with a procession by the BJP.

Although Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee dubbed the move “political courtesy”, a section in the party pointed to political and administrative compulsions.

Initially, both the Trinamul and BJP marches were to begin at College Square at 2pm and end at Rani Rashmoni Avenue. But Chatterjee said tonight that the Trinamul procession, to protest the Centre’s railway fare hike, would begin at Subodh Mullick Square, less than 1km from College Square, and end at the Gandhi statue in Maidan.

The BJP padayatra will be organised to protest “lawlessness and terror” in Bengal.

Asked about Trinamul’s change of plan, Chatterjee, also the education minister, said: “We always show political courtesy to other parties. When we learnt that the BJP had lined up a padayatra from College Square tomorrow, we changed our route. Our procession will start from Subodh Mullick Square and culminate at the Gandhi statue in Maidan.”

A Trinamul vice-president, however, said the route was changed because the party did not want to get into a confrontation with the BJP as it was in power at the Centre. “Maintaining a working relationship with the BJP is imperative for us,” the Trinamul leader said.

Bengal BJP president Rahul Sinha welcomed Trinamul’s decision. “It’s good that Trinamul has changed the route of its march. Events of two rival parties should not be held at the same place,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Trinamul all-India general secretary Mukul Roy had said when asked about the two processions coinciding: “They are taking out their rally and we, ours. Why should there be any confusion or problem?”

Trinamul ministers, MPs and MLAs will be part of the rally, announced by Roy.

Roy said the Centre’s decision to hike railway fare would be an “extra burden” on the “common man”. He accused the Narendra Modi government of going back on its promise of not framing “anti-people policies”.

“The hike of 14.5 per cent in passenger fares is the highest one-time increase by the railways since Independence. The prices of tickets have gone up steeply. This is an extra burden on the common man,” said Roy, who had held the railway portfolio.

On Friday, the Centre announced an across-the-board increase in passenger fares and a hike in freight rates from June 25. Although the railways issued a clarification to underscore that the passenger fare increase was 10 per cent, the effective increase will work out to 14.62 per cent because of the fuel adjustment component.