Durgapur/Kolkata: Apurba Choudhury and Mohammad Nishad, both contractual employees in Durgapur Steel Plant (DSP), have lost their jobs after their factory gates were closed, citing re-division of processes and non-availability of slags (scraps ) in the factory premises.
Both of them have been sitting on dharna before DSP‘s factory gate and are now planning to join workers from other factories and industries to take part in the Brigade Rally on February 28, called by the Left Front and the Congress, ahead of the Assembly elections to be announced shortly.
This is the first time in the past 50 years that the Left and Congress have given a joint call for a rally in Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata and the organisers are expecting a million plus crowd.
Meanwhile, preparations are on in full swing to mobilise a strong gathering for the rally where the Left-Congress pre-poll alliance is expected to put forth a “people’s alternative” to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The morale is high after sustained campaigns, street corner meetings, factory gate meetings, mass meetings, a slew of songs and the recent response to the youth and student march to Nabanna, demanding jobs and education, say some of the organisers of the Brigade rally.
What has added colour to the campaign is a subaltern culture-oriented parody of a hit rap number (Tumpa) that has gone viral. The parody calls upon people to leave everything and come to the Brigade Rally.
Alongside, traditional songs by IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association) are also resonating with people as also a song by contemporary composer duo -- Rahul and Nilabja -- who have used Bengali subaltern words to “weave magic amidst the slum residents and youths” with a parody of TMC and BJP misrule in the state and the Centre.
According to some key organisers of the rally, already over a thousand meetings have been held throughout the state, and there are reports of people from rural areas planning to flock the Brigade Ground on local trains, buses and other vehicles.
In last year’s Brigade Rally called by the Left Front, a record of nearly Rs 3 lakh worth of books were sold through in the premises. This year, the organisers are expecting a bigger crowd.
“Over 675 mikes will cater to the whole area of the Brigade this year,” said Kallol Majumdar, Kolkata district secretary of Communist party of India (Marxist).
About 20 news songs regarding the Brigade Rally have already been premiered by young artistes on YouTube channels and other social media.
Referring to Brigade Parade Ground, CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said nowhere in India was there such a metropolis with such a magnificent open space in its heart, adding that it was an “architectural marvel” of the colonial times.
Originally used for regimental practice and parades, Brigade’s custodian is the Indian Army and all political parties need to seek permission from the Army to use the space for rallies, with the condition that all garbage would be cleaned at the time of handing over the Brigade Parade Ground back to the Army.
From Bulganin to Mujibur-Rahman
Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Ground has been witness to many a historic occasions, such as in 1957 when the then Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin saw a five-million plus gathering, as per records. That rally is said to have been the largest so far in India, say some reports.
Also, it was in Brigade in 1971 that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman openly thanked India after the formation of Bangladesh . Accompanying him was the Indian premier, late Indira Gandhi.
Since then, the Left Front rallies have perhaps been the largest to be held in Brigade.
Many such massive rallies were held by former West Bengal chief minister, late Jyoti Basu, whose speeches used to “weave magic”, say some political observers.
The last Brigade rally by the Left Front, held in 2019, = saw a glimpse of ailing former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, who could not walk up to the stage.