West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee on Sunday paid tribute to all the "martyrs" during 34 years of Left rule in the state and urged people to fight for restoration of democracy in the country.
She also remembered 13 Youth Congress activists who were killed in police firing on this day in 1993. Banerjee was a leader of the Youth Congress at that time, when the Left Front was in power in West Bengal.
"Today is the historic #21JulyShahidDibas. On this day, 26 years ago, 13 youth workers were killed in police firing. Since then, we observe this day as #ShahidDibas. My heartfelt tribute to all the martyrs who were killed during the 34 years of Left rule," Banerjee tweeted.
She said this year's rally would focus on bringing back ballots instead of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in order to "save" democracy.
"The main demand of the protest on #21stJuly 1993 was 'No ID Card, No Vote'. This year, we have given a call for 'Restore Democracy. No Machines, Bring Ballots Back'. Let us pledge to fight for the restoration of democracy in our great nation #21JulyShahidDibas," Banerjee added.
Martyrs Day is observed annually by the Trinamool Congress on July 21 to commemorate the killings of 13 people in police firing in 1993, when Banerjee, then a Youth Congress leader, had launched a march to the secretariat, demanding that voters' card be made the only document to allow people to exercise their franchise. The Left Front was in power in the state at that time.
The TMC supremo usually announces future programmes of her party in this rally and speculations are rife that this time her address would be focused on assembly elections due in the state in 2021.
The rally is being held in the backdrop of BJP's impressive performance in the Lok Sabha polls in which the party won 18 of the 42 seats in the state, only four less than the ruling TMC.
BJP state president and MP Dilip Ghosh directed party workers to not allow TMC leaders to leave for Kolkata to participate in the rally if they did not return the "cut money" they had collected from people.
"We will not allow any of the TMC leaders to leave for tomorrow's rally if they do not return the cut money they had taken from people. We will drag them out of the buses," said Ghosh, also an MP.
Following this, TMC leader and minister Chandrima Bhattacharya lodged an FIR against Ghosh.
The Kolkata Police has taken all measures to keep the city moving, expecting huge turnout at Sunday's rally.
Around 5,000 policemen will be deployed to look after security at the rally and maintain normality.
"All precautionary measures have been taken to ensure an incident-free rally. All deputy commissioners have been directed to be on the street. Our arrangements are absolutely foolproof," Joint Commissioner (Headquarters) Jawed Shamin said.
Besides, personnel of Kolkata Police Quick Response Teams and Rapid Action Force will be present, a senior officer said adding that drones and snipers will also be used to check any untoward incident.
Thousands of TMC workers have started pouring into the city to participate in the rally.
Temporary shelters and cooking arrangements have been made for them by the party, reports said.
(With inputs from PTI)