The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong saves CM rally feedback blushes

Calcutta, Nov. 5: The seven-day deadline for submission of views on Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s proposals for regulating rallies and processions expired today with all the Opposition parties, barring the Congress, deciding not to respond to the draft.

Presenting his proposals at an all-party meeting in Writers’ Buildings on October 29, the chief minister had urged representatives of different political parties to send their opinion on his ideas within a week.

The main Opposition party, the Trinamul Congress, and the SUCI had stayed away from the all-party meeting on the plea that they had not received the draft beforehand. The proposals were later sent to them.

Asked if all the parties had responded, Bhattacharjee said: “Let us see. We have given them seven days’ time which I guess is not yet over.”

Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee, of Trinamul, said his party did not deem it necessary to reply to the draft. “The state government had earlier decided on its own to move the division bench of Calcutta High Court to challenge Justice Amitava Lala’s order restricting rally hours on working days. Did the chief minister care to consult the Opposition parties before moving the division bench' All this shows that the state government has scant respect for the Opposition parties’ views,” he said.

Banerjee said the chief minister had already framed his proposals on rally regulation after consulting the CPM and its coalition partners. “He has decided everything and his gesture of seeking our opinion is nothing but an eyewash,” he added.

He reiterated that Trinamul has no intention of inconveniencing people by holding rallies and processions. “We never hold rallies causing inconvenience to people. Our party had already decided not to hold any big rally on weekdays. We only make an exception to this rule on July 21, which we observe every year as Martyrs’ Day,” he pointed out.

State BJP president Tathagata Roy said his party would not respond to the draft sent by the chief minister. “We generally do not organise rallies on weekdays,” he said, accusing Bhattacharjee of resorting to double standards on the question of holding rallies.

“On the one hand, he is claiming the right to bring out rallies as his party’s democratic right. On the other, he is trying to restrict rallies to attract investments,” Roy observed. He said the BJP would shortly send “an open letter” to the chief minister, drawing his attention to his government’s “dismal failure in all sectors”.

State SUCI secretary Pravas Ghosh dismissed the draft as an “exercise in futility”. “We are determined to bring out rallies in response to people’s needs and do not care for the state government’s stand,” he asserted.

The Congress is the only party to formally respond to Bhattacharjee’s proposals. It has requested the chief minister to exclude the area surrounding Gandhiji’s statue on Mayo Road from the restricted zone and name a few more city parks as rally venues.

The party also urged the government to allow rallies at the Brigade Parade Ground on weekdays in the event of some important leader agreeing to address one on an unscheduled date.

Leaders of the Left Front partners, including the CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc, said they had accepted the chief minister’s proposals and so there is no need to send across their opinion.

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