KOLKATA: Uncertainty looms over Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s high-decibel public rally in the city, following Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s
(KMC) decision not to allow parks to be used as meeting venues.
Traditionally, heavyweight Congress campaigners hold their public meetings at south Kolkata’s Deshapriya Park. In 1989, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had held his meeting at this park.
This year, too, the state Congress had scheduled Deshapriya Park as one of the two possible venues for Sonia’s public gathering, and the date would be sometime soon, it was learnt, though it has not been finalized yet. Congress and Trinamool leaders confirmed the choice of Deshapriya Park as the venue for Sonia to share the dais with Mamata Banerjee.
But, with days to go for the high-profile event, KMC authorities have thrown a spanner in the works, citing an amended policy that disallows the use of parks for public meets. According to a senior civic official from the parks department, the KMC top brass had already announced a ban on public meetings at parks a year ago. “How can we bend rules? If we do that, there will be lots of requests, which we wouldn’t be able to turn down,” the official said.
Senior state Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya said he would approach KMC for permission for venues once he returns from Delhi.
The KMC official was particularly touchy about Deshapriya Park, as it has been beautified at considerable expense. In fact, some beautification work is still under way.
Notwithstanding KMC’s reluctance, the top brass of the civic body is well aware that a refusal to give permission to such a high-profile event could spark trouble. Though some point to Park Circus Maidan as an alternative venue, it is also being beautified under the Asian Development Bank-funded Kolkata Environment Improvement Project.
KMC staff, however, confirmed that rules were being blatantly flouted by leaders of all political parties. “Workers’ meets are being held in small and medium-sized parks across the city without the civic body’s consent,” said a KMC source. Mayor Bikash Bhattacharya tread cautiously. While emphasizing that rules would not be flouted, he said a decision would be taken after organizers sought permission. “Let them approach us. We will think over it,” he said.