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Brace for chaos of big-bang rally

The stage is set — and a mammoth one at that — for the Trinamul Congress’s biggest show of the year and the commuter’s worst traffic nightmare come true.

As Mamata Banerjee waves her Maa-Mati-Manush wand at the teeming Trinamul faithful from a three-tier, road-hog dais at the intersection of Bentinck Street and CR Avenue on Monday afternoon, the choice is simple for the rest of the city: be someplace else or get stuck.

Maa-Mati-Manush Divas, formerly Martyr’s Day, would in all likelihood not only shut out the city centre for several hours but also clog all thoroughfares leading to the venue. Metro presents a primer on what to expect.

Programme starts at: Noon. Mamata Banerjee is expected to take centre stage around 1.30pm.

Programme continues till: At least 3pm, according to Trinamul leaders.

Who will be there: Tolly biggies-turned-Trinamul leaders Dev, Moon Moon Sen, Satabdi Roy, Sandhya Roy (all MPs), Chiranjit Chakraborty and Debashree Roy (both MLAs). Several other stars and starlets from tinsel town are likely to be in attendance.

The entire batch of Trinamul MLAs and MPs is expected to be by Mamata’s side, including Mukul Roy, Subrata Bakshi, Partha Chatterjee, Sudip Bandopadhay, Saugata Roy, Bratya Basu and Abhishek Banerjee.

What’s the plan: Indranil Sen and Nachiketa will start the proceedings doing what they do best: sing. Booming speeches from the Trinamul big guns will follow but no prizes for guessing whose voice will carry the farthest. And since chief minister Mamata likes musical interludes at her meetings, expect more songs between the speeches.

Dais details: The three-tier main dais draped in Trinamul colours stands against the backdrop of Victoria House at the crossing of CR Avenue and Bentinck Street.

The dais, a three-tier structure larger than the one built last year, blocks most of Bentinck Street. Another has reduced CR Avenue into half its width. The space that remains will be cordoned off by police to protect the VIPs.

The bottom tier of the main dais where the podium is placed spans 52x20ft and stands 10ft above the ground. The second and third tiers are separated by a foot in terms of height and measure 44x20ft and 40x20ft respectively.

Spread over an area of 2,720 square feet, the entire dais should be able to accommodate around 500 chairs, a Trinamul leader said.

The bottom tier where Mamata will stand has been made larger at 1,040 square feet this year. In 2010 and 2012, the stage measured 960 square feet.

VVIPs and delegates will climb to the first-tier using a 4ft wide staircase starting from Bentinck Street. Those seeking seats at the second and third tiers can climb the dais from a stair at the back of the stage.

Apart from the main dais, there are separate platforms for MLAs and councillors and one for the media to the right of Mamata’s stage.

Traffic alert: All thoroughfares leading to the city centre are likely to be clogged from as early as 9am. Arterial roads will be closed. “We will restrict vehicular movement on roads as and when required,” said Rajeev Mishra, joint commissioner of police, headquarters.

Supporters of the ruling party started arriving in the city from the districts on Sunday morning. Thousands of them have put up at Salt Lake stadium for the night. The majority of the outstation rally crowd will reach the city on Monday morning and head straight for the venue, which Trinamul leaders said would start filling up from around 10am.

Roads leading to Esplanade from Howrah, Sealdah and Calcutta stations are likely to bear the brunt of the traffic chaos.

Bidhan Sarani, College Street and SN Banerjee Road could be choked from 10am as Trinamul supporters proceed to the venue from north Calcutta and Calcutta railway station. Those coming from Sealdah railway station and the eastern parts of the city will take AJC Bose Road and hit SN Banerjee Road via the Moulali crossing.

Strand Road will overflow with people heading for the rally venue from Howrah railway station. Those coming from the Kidderpore area and other parts of south Calcutta will take JL Nehru Road.

Crowd count: Three to four lakh, according to party estimates.

Transport options: There will be hardly any public transport on the roads because more than 35,000 buses have been booked by Trinamul to ferry supporters.

Dipak Sarkar of the Bengal Bus Syndicate said around 4,500 buses plying on different routes in Calcutta, Howrah, North and South 24-Parganas won’t be available on Monday. “We have another 23,000 buses in the districts and 70 per cent of them have been requisitioned,” he said.

Around 4,000 buses that operate under the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates in and around the city will also be off the roads. “We have 26,000 buses in the districts and nearly 80 per cent of them won’t be available for regular duty,” Tapan Bandopadhyay, secretary of the association, said.

dress rehearsal on dais, trauma for traffic
Heavy traffic off the rally site at the Bentinck Street-CR Avenue crossing on Sunday afternoon. Monday will be worse. (Sanat Kr. Sinha)
A hawker parades his wares for Trinamul supporters inside Salt Lake stadium on Sunday afternoon. Hundreds of people who arrived from the districts on Sunday to attend the rally have been allowed to camp at the stadium. (Mayukh Sengupta)

Government buses, which account for a small fraction of the fleet, possibly won’t be out in full strength either.

Metro Railway, as always, will be the quickest option for the commuter. But brace for overcrowded rakes before and after the rally.

“Our trains will follow the usual weekday schedule. We don’t intend to run extra trains because of the rally,” a Metro official said.

Rain alert: Rain could add to the commuter’s pain. Light to moderate rain has been forecast with a cyclonic circulation on the Odisha-Bengal coast intensifying into a low-pressure area on Sunday. According to the forecast, Calcutta will receive up to 36mm of rain but there’s no saying when the sky will open up.