The crack of bamboo snapping followed by a roaring cheer from the crowds — yet another barricade had succumbed to the hysteria of the masses that had thronged the city's commercial district here on Friday to witness a momentous occasion — Mamata Banerjee stepping into Writers Building, the State Secretariat, for the first time after assuming office.
And the thousands that had assembled for a glimpse of the State's first woman Chief Minister were not disappointed as Ms. Banerjee walked amongst the crowds from Raj Bhavan, where she was administered the oath of office, to Writers Building.
Flanked by leaders of the Trinamool Congress, Ms. Banerjee's 20-minute journey was made amidst tight security arrangements that were continually caving in to the enthusiasm of her supporters and admirers. They jumped over or manoeuvred through the barricades erected to restrain the crowds, spilling onto the streets.
Hours before the procession had even started out from Raj Bhavan, the street on which Writers Building stands was packed with supporters. The long wait in the sweltering heat was marked by several peaks in the excitement, even as policemen struggled to restrain the people. Eventually, the mob pulled down all fencing and claimed the street as its own.
The statues that adorn the façade of the heritage building had company on Friday afternoon as people looked for the best perches available to watch the action. Employees, many of whom have probably never worked for a government other than that of the Left Front, jostled with photographers for space on the balconies and the windows.
Their constant struggle caused the glass on a window pane to shatter just as Ms. Banerjee arrived, even as the crowds went berserk. A near stampede was caused as everyone attempted to watch her step in. Many were disappointed, but the celebrations had just begun.
The sounds of conch shells, ululation and slogans broke out in tandem while the crowds waved flags, banners and photographs of Ms. Banerjee. The jubilation continued at a fevered pitch for half-an-hour until newly appointed Minister, Firhad Hakim, appeared at a window pleading with them to leave, but the crowd did not relent.
“Didi! Didi,” they shouted for nearly 20 minutes insisting that Ms. Banerjee return. Ms. Banerjee briefly obliged the crowds repeating requests that they leave.
Many of them had travelled from distant parts of the State to witness the occasion in person. A supporter had shaved his head to resemble the symbol of the Trinamool Congress while others had smeared themselves in the party's green colour.
“The common people have brought Didi to power. We are the ones who have voted for her. Won't you take pictures of us? a particularly restless supporter who had come from Haldia in Purba Medinipur repeatedly told the photographers and cameramen.
They jumped over
or manoeuvred through the barricades spilling onto the streets.