Calcutta, Oct. 30: Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress, the principal Opposition in Bengal, tonight claimed the idea of a rally code as its own in a signal which suggested that the party would follow a regime of discipline.
Pankaj Banerjee and Mukul Roy, known for their proximity to Mamata, said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s recommendations unveiled at yesterday’s all-party meeting, which Trinamul boycotted, contained proposals that were an “echo of our leader’s initiative taken two years ago”.
These were described as “salient points” of the chief minister’s draft by Banerjee, the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, with which Trinamul cannot have any quarrel because they are a replication of its own proposals.
“There is nothing new in the draft. We had decided not to hold rallies on working days and keep our processions on one side of the road a long time back,” he said.
“We had also announced that the only exception to this norm could be made on July 21 which we observe as Martyrs’ Day every year. We make it a point to seek police permission for holding this particular rally long before the scheduled date.”
The Trinamul leadership, however, clarified that the party would reserve the “right to organise rallies” on working days even in the proposed no-rally areas or roads in “emergency situations”.
Asked what he meant by “emergency situations”, the Trinamul leader said: “The state government cannot expect us to organise a rally at Shahid Minar to protest against police firing at College Street. Similarly, we cannot go to Deshapriya Park or Park Circus Maidan to organise a protest meeting if something serious happens at Writers’ Buildings.”
Shahid Minar, Deshapriya Park and Park Circus Maidan have been listed in the chief minister’s draft as spots where meetings can be held.
Banerjee said the party was not going to send any formal reply to the government, conveying its views on the draft, as sought by the chief minister.
Roy pointed out that there was a difference between an organised and a spontaneous rally. “It is not very difficult to abide by rules if rallies are planned beforehand. However, this may not be possible when people bring out a rally spontaneously to protest against any particular event or act of the administration,” he said.
The Trinamul leaders felt the chief minister was talking of rally restrictions to bail out Left Front chairman Biman Bose who has been served a contempt notice for making derogatory remarks about the order issued by Justice Amitava Lala.
“Bhattacharjee has been wasting his time on a non-issue. There are far more important issues like the need to improve health services, introduction of English from Class I, lack of relief materials in the flood-hit areas and a sharp rise in criminal activities. We will urge him to convene an all-party meeting to discuss these matters,” they said.
Trinamul is now focusing on the disarray in health services. The party’s youth wing today organised a demonstration in front of SSKM Hospital to protest against a patient being given blood that was past its date of expiry.
A meeting of Trinamul’s state executive committee is scheduled for November 5 to chalk out the strategy to confront the administration over deteriorating health services.