The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata, SUCI to shun rally meet

Calcutta, Oct. 28: Trinamul Congress, the principal Opposition party in the state, and the SUCI, the smallest party in the Assembly, have begun to look for ways to wreck chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s initiative to evolve a political consensus on measures to rid the city of disruptive rallies.

A day before the all-party meeting called by Bhattacharjee to formulate a rally code, Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee announced her decision to boycott it.

Mamata said her party would not attend the meeting as the government had not sent a copy of the draft proposals. “We will not attend tomorrow’s meeting because we don’t know the contents of the draft,” she said at a rally of the party’s women’s wing opposite Metro cinema. The rally was meant to protest against the “sorry” state of affairs in hospitals and to demand the resignation of Bhattacharjee and health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra.

State secretary of the SUCI Provas Ghosh said the CPM is using the high court order restricting rallies as an excuse to impose diktats of business houses. “We will not attend tomorrow’s all-party meet and will go on holding rallies as it is the only way to voice protest for the common people,” said Ghosh.

The venue of today’s Trinamul meet was out of bounds for rallies according to the restrictions imposed by Justice Amitava Lala on September 29 as well as the draft proposal drawn up by the chief minister to rein them in.

Traffic bound for Chittaranjan Avenue was disrupted by the gathering. But as it was not too big, the hold-up was not severe. Police put up guardrails and blocked half the road. Vehicles passed through the other half.

“We don’t obstruct roads while holding meetings and processions. Even if we are holding a procession, we always give priority to patients in ambulances and making smooth passage for them,” said Mamata.

No Opposition party, she said, can give up the right to organise meetings and processions because they are the only “vehicles to articulate popular expectations”. “If the common people and the Opposition do not hold protest rallies, who will'” she asked.

Her party would take to the streets, Mamata said. “Whenever people are in distress.”

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