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Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee peps up Brigade crowd

Ailing leader joins rally for 30 minutes, seated in car

By Meghdeep Bhattacharyya in Calcutta
  • Published 4.02.19, 2:57 AM
  • Updated 4.02.19, 2:57 AM
  • 2 mins read
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee arrives at the rally on the Brigade Parade Grounds in Calcutta on Sunday. (Sanat Kumar Sinha)

An unexpected visit by the ailing Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee pepped up the Left’s Brigade rally on Sunday although the former chief minister’s respiratory condition forced him to stay confined in his car behind the dais, on oxygen support.

Kanhaiya Kumar, the firebrand young CPI leader known for his puckish oratory, had to pull out at the last minute after being diagnosed with mumps.

But Left leaders’ initial disappointment at the former JNU student leader’s forced absence turned to delight at the news that Bhattacharjee, 74, would be able to make it despite his multiple health complications.

“Kanhaiya’s absence was more than compensated for by Buddhada’s presence…. We had been hoping earnestly that he would be able to come but the chances had appeared slim till around 12.30pm,” a CPM leader said.

Bhattacharjee, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and has recently been suffering from eye problems too, rarely leaves his Palm Avenue home.

But around 12.30pm on Sunday, sources said, he told his wife Meera that he would give it a try. Around 1pm, the two of them boarded a car parked outside their home. His physician and nursing staff followed in another car.

By 1.20pm, Bhattacharjee was at the Brigade Parade Grounds. The announcement of his arrival, by Left Front chairman Biman Bose from a dais represented by 17 Left parties, prompted loud cheers from the audience.

The dignitaries, from CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury to state party secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra, were visibly pleased.

“Since the dust outside would have worsened his condition, Buddhada listened to his physicians’ advice and stayed in the car, which was parked behind the dais,” a CPM functionary said. “The leaders rushed to see him.”

Bhattacherjee remained on oxygen support for most of his stay at the venue. A senior CPM leader said the former chief minister would have attempted showing up on the dais despite his condition, had it not required him to climb the stairs.

Bose announced that Bhattacharjee was listening to the speeches from inside his car. The former chief minister left after about 30 minutes.

“Buddhada’s joining the rally, even from inside his car, is a huge boost to the morale of party workers and supporters. He is such an icon,” a senior CPM leader said. “His influence still endures…. This is a huge moment for us.”

Another party leader said: “The success of the rally, which drew lakhs of people, was made much sweeter by Buddhada’s visit. He too was very pleased with the massive crowd.”

He added: “He gave us a few words of encouragement and some vital advice on the strategy for the Lok Sabha polls.”

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