At home, host Mamata pleases all

CM welcomes thousands for Kali puja, cops have tough time managing crowd

There was not much light or decoration. But the Kali puja at Harish Chatterjee Street was the centre of attraction in Kolkata on Diwali. The reason: the puja organiser was none other than Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Thousands of visitors, including a few foreigners, flocked for a glimpse of the chief minister welcoming visitors at her ancestral house at Kalighat. From the local paanwala to the Speaker of the state Assembly people from various walks of life arrived. They were overwhelmed by the warm welcome accorded by Mamata. They were also given prasad by Mamata's relatives and aides.

As darkness descended yesterday, policemen on duty in front of the CM's residence were busy managing the crowd that had gathered in the narrow lane leading to Mamata's residence. There were instructions that visitors who wanted to see the Kali idol at the CM's house must not be sent back, but the police were concerned about security.

"Mamata always prefers to mingle with the common people. But since she is not merely a leader of opposition now, we had to be very watchful. Managing such a huge crowd is a difficult task. But we managed it with extreme cautiousness," said a police officer.

"I have been a regular visitor to Mamata's house during Kali puja since 1985. Every year, I see Mamata welcoming people. But I am really overwhelmed with the warm welcome she has given me," said Speaker Biman Bandyopadhyay, who spent 30 minutes at the CM's residence yesterday. "Cutting across barriers of politics, religion and caste, people from faraway districts have come here."

Other dignitaries who visited included deputy speaker Sonali Guha, commissioner of Kolkata police R K Pachnanda, director general of police Naparajit Mukherjee, industrialist Prasun Mukherjee and the chief minister's principal secretary Gautam Sanyal. Many state ministers and Trinamool MPs were also present as well as tourists from France, Germany and Finland, who came to know about the puja at Mamata's residence through the internet.

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