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Kolkata Rally LIVE: With ‘BJP Hatao’ Slogan, Mamata Banerjee Headlines Opposition Show of Strength

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Earlier, former J&K chief minister Farooq Abdullah called Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) ‘chor’ machines and said opposition leaders must urge the poll panel to do away with them. Earlier, ex-BJP leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha urged opposition parties to make the country’s “failing economy” as the election issue in upcoming Lok Sabha polls. At the rally being hosted by Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Sinha said the opposition parties must counter the BJP’s attempt to paint the opposition unity as a single-agenda bloc. The Kolkata rally was earlier opened by Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, who warned that the country is going through an “unprecedented crisis”.

More than 20 national leaders, including former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Shatrughan Sinha and Arun Shourie; three present chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal, Chandrababu Naidu and HD Kumaraswamy; and former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav and Gegong Apang will attend the meeting, TMC sources said. Most of them have already arrived in the city.

“I have met Deve Gowda-ji, Hemant-ji (Hemant Soren of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha) and Akhilesh Yadav. I will meet other Opposition leaders too,” Banerjee told reporters.

With Bharatiya Janata Party’s recent defeats in the Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Banerjee has raised the pitch to be united against the saffron party in the 2019 general election.

Bahujan Samaj Party general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra, Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar, Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, too, have already arrived.

Large-scale preparations have been made to ensure that it is a complete success. Besides the huge stages, 20 watch towers have been erected and 1,000 microphones and 30 LED screens put up so that the spectators can see and hear the speeches of the leaders clearly.

Lakhs of TMC supporters and workers are expected to attend the rally and huge numbers of them from various corners of the state have already started pouring into the city. They have been put up in the outskirts of the city and in some auditoriums and stadiums. Hundreds of TMC volunteers will be on the grounds to take care of supporters.

A thick security blanket has been thrown on the sprawling Brigade Parade Ground — the venue for the mega rally to prevent any untoward incident. As many as 10,000 police personnel will be deployed and around 400 police pickets have been set up to ensure foolproof security, police said.

Policemen in plain clothes, personnel of the Rapid Action Force and Quick Response Team would be deployed at the rally venue. Police posting would start from as early as 4am with senior officials in the rank of assistant commissioners in charge of the five dais set up for the rally, a senior police officer said.

“We are expecting a huge turnout from all parts of the state as well as from the country. There will be so many important dignitaries. We have arranged foolproof arrangements for their security,” he said.

Separate entrances have been arranged for the five dais that would be looked after by around 15 teams of police officers, he said adding that commandos and other officers would also be posted there.

“We are not allowing any food stall near the venue. Only water tanks are being allowed at a safe distance from the dais. Nobody will be allowed to light fire near the venue for cooking or any other purpose,” the officer said.

Vehicular movement in and around the venue has been either restricted or directed. “VVIPs will be taken in small cars to the venue. Other would have to park their vehicle at designated parking lots. We will not let anybody to drive motorbikes to the place,” he said.

A central monitoring desk has been set up at the Kolkata Police headquarters to keep a watch on the proceedings of the rally.

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