Kolkata, July 21 : Traffic here came to a virtual standstill Monday as lakhs of Trinamool Congress supporters converged on the eastern metropolis from West Bengal’s districts for a mammoth rally in commemoration of Martyrs’ Day. Hundreds snaked their way to the grand stage erected in front of Victoria House at Esplanade from where party supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addressed the throng. A the drizzle began, Trinamool umbrellas went up in the sea of people.

Waving flags embossed with the party symbol, Trinamool workers walked from various intersections of the city, shouting slogans and made their way to the venue to listen to Banerjee’s address, where she repeatedly instructed the participants to remain within the designated area.  As around 35,000 state-run buses were diverted to ferry supporters from the rural areas to Kolkata for the rally, thousands of commuters were left stranded on arterial roads waiting for taxis, shuttles and the left-over buses on a busy workday.

Office-goers lined up for upto an hour waiting for their turn in autos and buses. People clambered onto buses as soon as they spotted one. The vehicles seemed ready to burst at the seams as more and more of harassed passengers got on across the way. Because of the massive crowd, cabbies refused to ply on the routes taken by rallyists. The ones that agreed charged exhorbitant rates. Even though several schools remained shut to avoid inconveniencing the students, those schools which were open, left the decision on the parents to send their wards to school Monday.

With the traffic thrown out of gear on the surface, the metro railways witnessed a huge rush. The railway stations in Howrah and Sealdah also bore the brunt of the gathering. Kiosks of Trinamool memorabilia being sold near the venue added to the chaos as several loyalists stopped to have a look. Ironically, while residents across the city had to suffer, those present at the celebration were treated to tribal music and dances.

The Trinamool rally was held to commemorate the death of 13 youths in police firing July 29, 1993, when the Communist Party of India-Marxist-led Left Front was in power. Originally observed as Martyrs’ Day, it has now been christened by Trinamool as the ‘Maa Maati Manush Divas (mother, land, people day)’.