Three Congress MLAs and one CPI(M) legislator joined the Trinamool Congress on Monday, marking the onward march of Bengal's ruling party in weaning over leaders of the opposition parties.
The development came on a day the Trinamool celebrated Shahid Divas, adding colour to the party's biggest annual function.
"Congress MLAs Asit Kumar Mal, Ghulam Rabbani, Umapada Bauri and CPI(M) MLA Chaya Dolui would join Trinamool formally in the rally," party general secretary Mukul Roy announced from the podium.
Meanwhile, Kolkata was thrown out of gear owing to the Trinamool's show of strength on the occasion of Shahid Divas, observed to commemorate the death of 13 political activists who were gunned down by the police during the Left rule in 1993.
Lakhs walked towards Esplanade where a 3,500 sq foot platform was built for chief minister Mamata Banerjee to address her workers against a backdrop of rising popularity of BJP. Mamata has much at stake with the crucial Kolkata Municipal Elections slated in 2015 and the all-important assembly polls the year after. This is the 21st function of the July 21 event.
Office goers had a torrid time. Buses were almost completely absent from the roads of the city and its suburbs as the vehicles were pressed into service to ferry supporters to the venue. Autorickshaws were also far smaller than the usual numbers.
Sardine-packed trains brought thousands to the major stations of Howrah and Sealdah. Tram services were withdrawn from Esplanade for the day.
Long processions were seen advancing towards the city centre through Central Avenue, S N Banerjee Road, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Lenin Sarani, Bentinck Street, S P Mukherjee Road, Moulali, Bidhan Sarani all arterial roads leading to Esplanade.
"I reached Babuhat at 10 am, when dozens of buses jostle for passenger attention on normal week days. But today the bus stand was absolutely empty. I had to wait for a logn time board a taxi to reach office near Theatre Road," said Somdeb Bhowmick, an entrepreneur.
In anticipation of paralysed streets several schools of the city declared Monday a holiday. Among these were Lakshmipath Singhania Academy, Don Bosco Park Circus and Liluah, Sri Sri Academy, Mahadevi Birla World Academy, Calcutta Boys, Calcutta Girls, Loreto House, Appejay School.
Some, who had come for the rally from the districts, were seen loitering in the Maidans, Alipore Zoo, Birla Planetarium, Indian Museum and the Strand.