| Speak no evil: Biman Bose at the Maidan rally. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, Feb. 15: Three days after his defence of utterances against Justice Amitava Lala’s rein-rally ruling in an affidavit, Biman Bose held court in the Maidan with the chief minister by his side and presided over a programme that broke almost every promise the government made to the judiciary in an affidavit last year.
The Left Front chairman did not repeat the fire-and-brimstone performance he gave on October 4 last year. He spoke for two minutes. But his followers — members of the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the CPM’s youth wing, made up for his restraint, frustrating Calcuttans and the high court’s efforts to fine-tune urban life.
Rules were flouted in front of policemen who had, by then, sensed that “cooperating” with cadre from the ruling party would be wiser as rallyists took over the heart of the city.
Vehicles, mostly motorcycles and autorickshaws, ferrying rallyists to the Brigade Parade Grounds broke one rule that even the chief minister’s convoy would not flout unless in an emergency. They poured into the venue from the east along Park Street and its extension, on the other side of Chowringhee, flouting the one-way rule in place every day.
The others broke the promise the government had made to the judiciary in an affidavit filed by advocate-general Balai Ray last year — that it would ask all parties to leave a portion of the carriageway for motorists.
The most important clause in that affidavit was given the go-by as DYFI supporters took up the entire width of Chowringhee Road, Park Street Extension, S.N. Banerjee Road and Dharamtala Street in the run-up to the rally.
That the DYFI was on to something was evident from noon. There was no crowd — early marchers were trooping in in small groups — but there was a band of volunteers “helping” policemen control traffic at the Park Street-Chowringhee crossing.
By the time the rallies started coming one after the other, the police had been relegated to helping. Around 2 pm, they gave up altogether, leaving traffic completely at the mercy of the “volunteers”. The police later said 400,000 people converged on the Maidan.
One intrepid Calcuttan, who gathered up the courage to wonder aloud why the multiple rallies were not keeping to one side of the road, got his reply. “Marching in narrow files will delay us; as it is, we are late for the 2 pm start,” said one from the crowd.
At the rally, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee asked CPM workers and sympathisers to reach every poor household and let it be known that the government is not going to impose tax on cattle, domestic animals and rural transport.
Bhattacharjee sought to clear doubts among the rural poor as the main Opposition party, the Trinamul Congress, has made rural taxes a plank for the Lok Sabha elections. “We are not mad that we will impose taxes on cattle, domestic animals and rural transport. But the Opposition parties are campaigning against us and trying to mislead the poor,” the chief minister said.