One by one, leaders of Trinamool Congress Tuesday summarised the huge turnout at the Martyrs’ Day rally as a “clear sign of the party’s victory” in the 2016 Assembly elections.
Abhishek Banerjee, the party’s second-in-command and MP from Diamond Harbour, began by congratulating the people for turning up despite the weather conditions not being very favourable and then moved on to showering praises on his aunt and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, saying others are not required to deliver lengthy speeches at an event where Mamata is the chief speaker.
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But the most pressing issue for the leader who is in the eye of a storm over his recent remarks remained the “opposition parties and a section of media that are out to malign the government”.
“They have turned a blind eye to all the development works undertaken by the Mamata government. We will have to fight these forces in a united fashion,” he said, and added that “the CPM which had opened fire on innocent protesters would take another 50 years to stage a comeback”.
State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim took a dig at BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh, saying “he had said ‘Bhag Mamata Bhag’ but now he should come and see that communal forces will not be able to affect us”. “They have been shooed away from Bengal.”
State Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said that the large crowd (which attended the rally) indicates what the result of next year’s Assembly elections would be.
“The result (of 2016 elections) is clear from this huge turnout. No one will be able to stop Mamata Banerjee who has replied to all the criticisms,” he said.
TMC MP Sudip Bandopadhyay took a dig at CPM and said the turnout is a “fitting reply” to their Monday’s rally. “In the next Assembly election, we are targeting 250 seats of the 294. Mamata Banerjee would be at Nabanna for as long as she wants to,” he said.
Writer-activist Mahasweta Devi came in an ambulance and spent a few minutes on the stage. “I am not keeping well. But I came on Mamata’s request. I want to tell you that only she can bring an overall development in the state. None of the chief ministers of any state have done the kind of work she has done in the last four years,” she said before leaving.
The Chief Minister lost her cool at the crowd several times during the speeches. On one occasion, she stopped state health minister Chandrima Bhattacharya to tell the crowd to sit down and instruct those at the back not to try and come in the front. “People have been sitting here since 10 am but you want to come in the front after coming late,” she scowled at the crowd.
In her speech, she said that both the police and the party volunteers “did not listen to (her) instruction of blocking one part of the road”. “This happens every time. But I am keeping a close watch with the help of CCTVs. Anyone who is found guilty of indiscipline would be expelled from the party,” she said.
Around 100 metres away from the venue, near New Market, members of North and Central Kolkata Progressive Hawker’s Union held a hoarding with the picture of state transport minister Madan Mitra.
“We are sad that the Chief Minister did not utter a single word for Mitra. We are his supporters and we will hold an Eid Milan Party on July 24, something that Mitra used to regularly attend,” said a member. Interestingly, the hoarding did have Mitra’s picture but it didn’t carry the party’s name nor its symbol.