KERALA

Congress rally disrupts normal life

PACKED HOUSE: Congress workers that turned up at the Marine Drive to attend a public meeting held in connection with the Congress rally in Kochi on Saturday. Photo:Vipinchandran

PACKED HOUSE: Congress workers that turned up at the Marine Drive to attend a public meeting held in connection with the Congress rally in Kochi on Saturday. Photo:Vipinchandran  

Renu Ramanath/John L. Paul

KOCHI: The Congress rally taken out from Kaloor to the Marine Drive Grounds disrupted normal life in the city today. People were stranded at different places in the city, uncertainty about bus routes, long rows of vehicles at traffic junctions, deafening slogans and songs from vehicles carrying Congress activists made life difficult for Kochiites on Saturday evening.

Thousands of party activists came from the outskirts and neighbouring districts to participate in the regional rally that was taken out through the arterial Palarivattom-High Court stretch, to culminate at the Marine Drive Grounds. The rallyists poured into the city in hundreds of buses, mini buses and jeeps.

Traffic holds up was the worst in the NH bypass junctions at Vytilla and Palarivattom. While Vytilla was the entry point to the city for rallyists coming from Alappuzha and the eastern districts of Kottayam and Idukki, those coming from Thrissur reached the city through Palarivattom. Long rows of vehicles in the Vytilla-Pettah stretch and in the Vytilla-Kadavanthra stretch waited for at least half-an-hour to cross Vytilla junction. Traffic lights were switched off in junctions and policemen took control of directing vehicles.

There were huge snarls in the Kaloor-Kadavanthara stretch as well, with Katrikadavu being chosen as the place where rallyists from three districts were to group. An elephant was stranded in the snarls in the Katrikadavu bridge just before the rally began.

Terminates service

Many private buses terminated services at Vytilla and were parked on the roadside. Private buses and KSRTC buses, which were to enter the city through Palarivattom, were diverted through the NH bypass, to reach Vytilla and then take a diversion through the Sahodaran Ayyappan Road. Some buses were diverted through Thammanam.

People who were passing through Kochi too were caught in the snarls.

Activists from Thrissur and Ernakulam districts started their rally from the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium to join another rally taken out by the activists from Alappuzha, Kottayam and Idukki districts at Kaloor. Vehicles carrying party workers had started pouring into the city by about 3.30 p.m. The rally from the stadium began only at about 5 p.m. But the people had already streaming towards Kaloor in groups.

The leaders had a tough time trying to line up the activists wandering off their designated points in the rally. Groups of percussionists thumping out on `chenda' added to the excitement of the workers. There was also a vehicle carrying a `pookkavadi,' and people swaying in Kathakali costumes.

To add to the carnival mood, a caparisoned elephant carrying a poster of `Dandi Yatra' also moved along the rally. The members were seen wearing badges sporting `Rally Committee.' The badges bore a picture of the historical `Dandi Yatra.'

The line buses were diverted from Palarivattom for more than two hours after the rally began. Even at 7 p.m., the buses, tempos, jeeps and cars carrying the rally members were still pouring into the stadium premises. Congress volunteers joined the melee with the traffic police trying to direct the vehicles.

Vendours and hawkers had a hay-day with thousands of Congress workers roaming around in the stadium grounds. Watermelon sellers and ice-cream sellers had a good day. Some were even vending towels. The organisers had taken care to distribute packets of drinking water, in view of the summer heat.

The slogans were mainly declaring support to the `official' leadership of the Congress party. `Sonia Gandhi zindabad,' was the most heard slogan. Though the official, printed slogans had nothing in particular about the senior Congress leader K. Karunakaran or his son K. Muraleed haran, the excited workers seem ed to spare no words for them.

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