A crowd of nearly four lakh people, giant cutouts of Jyoti Basu, attacks on Mamata Banerjee for “helping Maoists”, criticisms of the UPA government for failing to control inflation and Sunday traffic going haywire.
For the first few hours, fleeting images at the Left Front’s Brigade rally on “price rise, unemployment and conspiracy to destabilise West Bengal” failed to freeze into any unique frame.
But that changed at the finale when Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, flanked by security personnel, was set to leave. Breaking security cordon, he walked into handshaking distance of cadres, smiled at people and folded his hands into namashkars to women.
Brigade Parade Grounds had never witnessed such a scene. “Leaders often walk into crowds ... But no chief minister or Union minister has done this at a Brigade rally,” said an IPS officer on duty.
As protocol was thrown to the winds, the Marxists probably found reason to smile amid their recent losses.
An elderly woman was seen hugging CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose, and even planting a kiss on his forehead. Bose seemed embarrassed but could not stop laughing. Some SFI supporters gheraoed CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury for his “autograph”.
It was perhaps a coincidence that during all this a recorded speech by Jyoti Basu was playing on the loudspeakers. “We can only go ahead if the people are with us. We should never forget that we are for the people….”
The patriarch was remembered by every leader who addressed the rally — from RSP’s Kshiti Goswami to Forward Bloc’s Ashok Ghosh.
Only time will tell if the outburst of emotion will help the CPI(M) recover lost ground. But the day certainly belonged to the Marxists.