Sea of Red Cheers Buddhadeb
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At least 25,000 people – young and old, men and women – marched. Slogans rent the air. Every time he waved, the sea of red cheered. Many handed him bouquets, some showered flower petals.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today stepped out of the strategy backroom for the first time this election season and led a mammoth roadshow from Dhakuria to Garia, passing through Jadavpur, where he had been vanquished five years ago, and sending a loud message of resurgence in places from where the CPM had been obliterated.
The former chief minister campaigned for the CPM candidates for Jadavpur, Tollygunge and Kasba – Sujan Chakraborty, Madhuja Sen Roy and Satarup Ghosh, respectively. Bhattacharjee, who stays away from strenuous campaign because of ill health, stood in the open jeep for close to four hours as the procession wound its 9km way through Jodhpur Park, Jadavpur, Baghajatin, Ganguly Bagan and Padmasree before ending at Garia.
On a similarly sultry April afternoon in 2011, Bhattacharjee had led a roadshow in Jadavpur, where he had contested against Trinamul’s Manish Gupta. The CPM leader, who had represented Jadavpur since 1987, had lost to Gupta by over 17,000 votes.
The mood, however, was different today. People lining both sides of the road and standing in balconies cheered as Bhattacharjee, 72, waved. Armed with party flags, thousands of supporters matched steps, shouting slogans such as “Durnitir sarkar aar nei dorkar (the corrupt government is no longer needed)” and “Paye pore Hawaii choti, taka tulchhe koti koti (wearing slippers, but raising crores of rupees)”.
Many Congress workers joined the march.
Jadavpur candidate Chakraborty contrasted the rousing response to Bhattacharjee’s roadshow with the tepid reaction to recent campaign rallies addressed by chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
“Look at the chief minister’s rallies. From mass meetings they have become workers’ meetings. And look at Buddhada’s procession today. The crowds have turned out in thousands and our cadres look jubilant. All this has happened because of Buddhada’s presence, which has inspired people. They are set to remove this corrupt Trinamul government,” he said.
After the roadshow, Bhattacharjee told reporters while getting into his car: “Our procession was good. We have a big fight ahead and we will have to carry on in that direction.”
After the 2011 Assembly elections, the Left had been relegated to being a fringe player in its former bastion of Jadavpur. As Trinamul’s grip over the area tightened, CPM party offices were forcibly closed and many cadres became inactive in the face of threats. Many local committees had ceased to function.
But because of the alliance with the Congress and the setbacks Trinamul has faced owing to the Narada sting and the flyover collapse, the political equations in the Jadavpur belt seem to have changed a bit.
Cadres from nearby Tollygunge, Ranikuthi, Netajinagar, Garia, Ballygunge and parts of Topsia were marshalled to Bhattacharjee’s road show.
A noteworthy feature of today’s procession was the sizeable presence of women, said to have been sourced from the Paschim Banga Ganatantrik Mahila Samiti, a frontal organisation of the CPM. They accused the government of failure to provide security to women.
Although no prominent Congress leader was present, many party workers joined the march carrying the outfit’s flags.
“No prominent leader could take part as they were all campaigning in various constituencies,” a Congress leader said.