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Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha ‘contest’ over rally strength

Calcutta, Aug. 5: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today spoke less on the course correction of his government and more on mobilising crowds for a rally in his first public speech since the CPM’s Lok Sabha poll debacle.

He exhorted the party fai- thful to organise the masses for the Left Front rally on August 31 to take on the “challenges” posed by the Trinamul Congress-led Opposition, apparently enthused by the footfall in minister Subhas Chakraborty’s funeral yesterday.

At a programme to mark the 121st birth anniversary of party founder Muzaffar Ahmed this evening, Bhattacharjee said the gathering on August 31 should be like the one during the Left’s food movement of 1959. “That is our Martyrs’ Day,” he said in an oblique reference to Mamata Banerjee’s show of strength on July 21.

“As many as 80 people were beaten to death on the streets of the city on August 31 that year (1959) for demanding food from (the then Congress) government. Let’s make it our day to stage a turnaround and surge ahead, smashing the challenges thrown up by those who want to stop us. We have to turn the shahar uttal (rock the city) that day.”

The party has planned another “huge rally” at Netaji Indoor Stadium on August 14 to condole Chakraborty’s death.

The Left Front is meeting tomorrow morning, apparently to discuss the two rallies and a replacement for Chakraborty in the ministry.

Many in the party and outside may have perceived yesterday’s show of popular admiration for Chakraborty as an outburst of empathy for “a wronged leader who had paid the price for defying the brass’s diktats”. For many, it was a catharsis for the Left ranks, demoralised after successive electoral losses.

Both Bhattacharjee and state party secretary Biman Bose indicated that they were banking on the rallies to pull the ranks out of their stupor.

The August 31 rally will be held at Esplanade, close to where Mamata spoke on July 21.

However, Bhattacharjee also mentioned the need “for our introspection” and admitted that his government’s “steps to develop industry and agriculture had created apprehensions among some people”.

Perhaps, he would have said more had he not had to restrict himself to a “brief speech” after “the state party secretary took much of the time”.

But the chief minister insisted that whatever moves he had taken were in the “interest of poor people” and dismissed Mamata’s slogan of “Maa, mati, manush (Mother, earth and people)” as “jatra-like histrionics”.

Bose asked cadres to keep their chin up. “People who did not vote for us this time didn’t leave us altogether, they just wanted to teach us a lesson,” he said. He also asked the government to buck up. “Work that can be done in three months must not be left for six months. We are racing against time.”

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