Left parades ‘huge’ rally at Brigade

Meeting called for the ouster of chowkidar Narendra Modi from the Centre and paharadar Mamata Banerjee from Bengal

By Meghdeep Bhattacharyya in Calcutta
  • Published 4.02.19, 1:22 AM
  • Updated 4.02.19, 1:22 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Yechury addresses the meeting Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

The Left Front on Sunday organised a public rally at the Brigade Parade Grounds here, whose impressive crowd made the Bengal CPM secretary claim that the gathering was twice the size of a meeting held by Mamata Banerjee at the same venue on January 19.

The Left meeting was organised to call for the ouster of Narendra Modi from the Centre and Mamata Banerjee from Bengal.

Unlike the January 19 rally, the Left Front meeting was not organised by the ruling establishment and did not have administrative support.

Drawing a comparison between the Left rally and the January 19 meeting, CPM state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra said: “There were 23 speakers that day (on January 19) and most were PM aspirants. Today (Sunday), there are nine, but zero PM aspirants. But I can safely say the audience that day was half this size. That shows the real difference between us and her in the eyes of the people.”

Sources in the CPM said the Sunday crowd might not have been larger than the January 19 rally which witnessed the participation by leaders of major national Opposition parties. However, for the Left, the crowd was large enough for a sense of rejuvenation ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

The Left Front rally at the Brigade Parade Grounds in Calcutta on Sunday.
The Left Front rally at the Brigade Parade Grounds in Calcutta on Sunday. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

But many pointed out that recent political programmes of the Left had rarely met with stiff resistance from the ruling establishment, compared to the hurdles placed in the way of the BJP in Bengal.

They said in the context of possible polarisation in Bengal’s electoral politics, where the BJP has emerged as the principal challenger to Trinamul, while the Left has been relegated to the sidelines, the chief minister might not be as strongly opposed to the Left’s resurgence as she was till some time ago.

“It is a win-win for Mamata if the Left is able to recover some of its lost ground in Bengal because that will only be at the cost of the BJP, which had begun growing here largely by eroding the Left’s support base,” said a source. “The turnout today will not really be an eyesore for Mamata, although none in her camp will formally admit it. But it should be a cause for worry in the BJP.”

At the Left rally, however, the diatribe remained as anti-Mamata as it was anti-Modi, with the likes of CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury asserting that one could not be removed without the removal of the other.

“They are two sides of the same coin. For removing one, the other too must be removed,” said Yechury.

“The chowkidar (Modi) must go along with the paharadar (Mamata),” he added.

Although there were boasts of the turnout promising an electoral turnaround by the Left, sources at Alimuddin Street said large crowds at rallies in Bengal did not necessarily have a bearing on vote share.

“Mamata, for instance, had been drawing mammoth crowds to her rallies since the 1990s, but she had to wait till 2011 to come to power,” said a CPM insider, who added it would be pragmatic not to read too much into the Brigade turnout on Sunday. “The Left’s programmes have been drawing apparently significant crowds for some time. But that has had no reflection in election results in recent memory.”

After a drama unfolded over Calcutta police commissioner Rajeev Kumar in evening, the Left camp was wondering if the rally would make headlines.