The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rally fine, not business meet
- Bengal’s babus unite for a place in the sun

Calcutta, Dec. 28: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee believes a business meeting cannot be held on the lawns of the National Library, but there is nothing wrong with a rally by sarkari babus at another public place, Brigade Parade Grounds.

After Bhattacharjee expressed disapproval of the venue chosen by the Confederation of Indian Industry for the summit, the organisers have decided to shift it out of the front lawn of the National Library. The business lobby is looking for an alternative venue for the CII Partnership Summit that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to address.

At the same summit last year, held at the same venue, Singh had apologised for the inconvenience caused to users of the library which had to be shut for two hours for security reasons.

It appears the CII organised the meeting, which will see some 1,500 participants, on the library premises once again despite Singh’s obvious displeasure, though this time arrangements were made not to disturb readers at the library.

After it was reported today that the summit was being held at the National Library, Bhattacharjee said: “I spoke to CII officials in Delhi yesterday and I’ve asked them to change the venue. They’ve agreed.”

Ravi Poddar, CII chairman for the eastern region, said: “Since the chief minister wants the venue to be changed, it will be changed. CII has the capability to hold the meeting elsewhere.”

The Prime Minister will be happy to see the venue having been shifted, but it seems there is a question mark about his attendance because Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern is visiting Delhi at the time ' the CII summit is from January 18-20.

The ready agreement by CII to shift a programme several current and former heads of state or government are attending stands in sharp contrast to the political force used by the chief minister to make sure that the government employees’ organisation his party backs could hold its silver jubilee celebrations at the Brigade.

The rally was held today, after the initial objection by the army that is the court-appointed custodian for the Maidan was overruled by defence minister Pranab Mukherjee at Bhattacharjee’s request.

That no large gatherings should be held on library premises is possibly beyond debate, as the chief minister suggested. But, quite obviously, he does not share the same opinion about the Brigade, which, like the National Library, is public property and which, the high court has said, should not be allowed to be vandalised.

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