CPI(M)’s 1st rally at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Grounds; Congress, ISF invited
- TMC and BJP have dismissed the Left rally as insignificant. While the TMC claims CM Mamata Banerjee will return to power for the third time, BJP says the elections are bi-polar and there is no space for the Left.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), on Sunday will hold its first mega rally at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Ground, the biggest open ground in the city located in the sprawling Maidans, prior to the West Bengal assembly polls.
In a bid to display the strength of the third front which has taken shape over the past few weeks, the CPI(M) has planned a mega show along with its partners in the Left Front. The Congress and the Indian Secular Front (ISF), a new platform launched by cleric Abbasuddin Siddiqui from Furfura Sharif, have also been invited.
Significantly, Congress leader and Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel has been invited to the rally.
Although the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main contenders in the bi-polar election, have been planning to hold rallies at the Brigade grounds, it is the CPI(M) and its Left partners who have managed to organise the first one.
Thousands of Left supporters from the districts started arriving in Kolkata by trains and busses on Saturday. CPI(M) supporters took out numerous processions in Kolkata and its outskirts, asking people to attend the political programme.
“With the Congress and the ISF taking part, we are expecting a mammoth turnout. Since all people will not be able to reach the main podium we have installed 620 loudspeakers so that the speeches can be heard from everywhere,” said Left Front chairman and veteran CPI(M) leader Biman Bose who visited the venue on Saturday.
Kolkata Police officials said extensive security arrangements are being made. The rally ground has been divided into 11 security zones.
Ailing former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, 76, expressed anguish over not being able to attend the rally because of his health condition.
“I am getting a lot of information about the Brigade rally. I cannot explain the anguish I am going through for not being able to attend it. My comrades are fighting on the ground, while I am following the advice of doctors because of my illness. I could never imagine that I will be confined to my home while a meeting will be on at the Maidans. I wish it success,” Bhattacharjee said in a message that was released by his party on Saturday night.
In October last year, Bhattacharjee was rushed to a private hospital in Kolkata with symptoms of breathlessness. He has been suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) for more than a decade.
CPI(M) leaders said Bhattacharjee was extremely unwell when the Left Front held its last rally at the Brigade grounds prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Yet, he came to the venue in a car and stayed for some time although doctors did not allow him to leave the vehicle. On Sunday, a speech by Bhattacharjee may be read out, CPI(M) leaders said.
There is an old saying in Bengal politics that whoever manages to fill up the Brigade grounds with its followers wins elections. Only big parties hold rallies at this venue and whenever they do so, attempts are made to ferry as many supporters from the districts as possible since the grounds can accommodate close to one million people.
The TMC leadership did not want to give any importance to the Left-Congress rally.
“The writing is already on the wall. People will elect Mamata Banerjee as chief minister for the third time. It makes no difference if some party holds a rally at the Brigade,” said urban development minister Firhad Hakim.
BJP leaders, too, tried to play down the Left’s campaigning.
“This is a contest between the BJP and the TMC. Other parties do not matter,” said Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh.
The BJP won 18 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. Seen in terms of assembly segments, the BJP was ahead of the others in 122 of the state’s 294 assembly seats while the TMC lead in 163.
In terms of vote share in the 2019 polls, the TMC got 43.69 % in 2019 against 40.64 % secured by the BJP. The CPI(M)’s vote share came down to 6.34 % while the Congress got only 5.67%.
For the TMC and the BJP, any change in vote share of the Left and Congress may play a crucial role. The Congress and the Left Front parties contested as allies in the 2016 assembly polls but couldn’t stop the TMC from coming to power with 211 seats. The Congress wrested 44 seats while the Left got 32. Their tie-up did not last.