Anna Hazare skips Mamata Banerjee rally

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 13 2014, 02:09am hrs
The much-hyped joint rally of Mamata Banerjee and Anna Hazare here today turned out to be a disappointing affair with the anti-corruption crusader giving it a miss, triggering a blame game.

The rally at Ramlila ground was billed to be a platform to launch Banerjee's national ambitions with Hazare on the dais but it turned out to be just a Trinamool Congress rally.

Hazare, who recently expressed his support for Banerjee and her party, arrived here from Maharashtra only last night ostensibly to attend the rally but did not turn up at the rally even though it was delayed by hours.

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Just before the rally, he said he would attend but he skipped, after which his aides said he could not go because he was unwell.

Banerjee's close aide Mukul Roy later went to meet Hazare in Maharashtra Sadan here but it was not clear as to what transpired.

Visibly upset over the low turnout, Banerjee claimed that the rally had been organised not by Trinamool but by Anna Hazare's supporters which she had come merely to attend.

"It was their rally, not our rally. They invited us and I came on their invitation," she said while trying to wriggle out of the embarrassment over the poor turnout.

"It was not a political meeting. It was a social meeting. I was invited. I made the commitment to come here and I came," she told reporters later and went on to claim that there were not many Trinamool flags and banners as it was not her party's rally.

She, however, refused to say anything against Hazare, saying she respected him and his "desire".

On the other hand, Hazare's aides insisted that it was Trinamool Congress' rally and the poor turnout was because it was organised at wrong time and day.

"When does public gather It should be a Sunday, evening time, should be a holiday to gather more people. People need to work for food and water...people gather on holidays more," Hazare's aide Sunita Godara told reporters.

On Hazare skipping the rally, Godara said, "Anna ji's health is our priority. So if he is unwell, he should not come out in this sunlight. And if he has decided then he would be correct to do so. Anna had to convey a message, Mamataji is conveying the message."

Significantly, an Imam of Kolkata had threatened to stop supporting Bannerjee if she shares dais with Hazare.

At the thinly-attended rally in Ramlila ground, Banerjee targetted Narendra Modi and ruled out support to either Congress or BJP.

Singling out Modi without naming him, she said the "leader of Gujarat" is "communal" and rubbished his claim about development in the state under his leadership.

"The BJP says it will come top power. But I ask how will it come to power... The face of Gujarat is communal. Not the people but the leader of Gujarat is communal," she said.

Ruling out support to either BJP or Congress, she said the two parties "form a syndicate for selling the country. They can come together and CPI(M) also has an understanding with these parties. We will not support the Congress, BJP or the CPI(M) and not even support anyone who has been with them."

On the poor turnout at the Ramlila ground, she said, "People are generally brought from outside. We could also have done the same. But, this is election time."

She also suggested that the poor turnout could be because of rains yesterday in Delhi. Even these ten people will grow to 10 lakh.

Apparently sending out a message to Hazare that she does not need him, she said, "TMC has been fighting the battle alone and it will continue to do so. Today, we have 10 people, it will grow into 10 lakh people. In panchayat election also, we contested alone. We will also fight in Gujarat, Assam, Tripura, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh."

Attacking Modi, Banerjee came out with certain statistics on social indices to contest the contention of development in Gujarat. She said infant mortality rate in West Bengal was 32 per thousand, much less than the national average of 44 and Gujarat's 41.

Banerjee also claimed that the NSDP (Net State Domestic Product) rate of West Bengal was better than the country's growth of eceonomy rate.

"The country's GDP is 4.9 per cent, ours is 7.71 per cent despite the huge debt inherited from the Left Front government," she said.

The West Bengal Chief Minister also claimed that she faces threat to her life from rival parties including the CPI(M), BJP and Congress but "nobody can suppress me".

She alleged that good people were not allowed to take part in politics and targeted through the CBI, ED or the Income Tax departments.

The West Bengal Chief Minister also slammed the way Telangana state was created out of Andhra Pradesh recently.

"Whenever a state is to be divided, the consent of that state is a must. BJP and Congress formed a syndicate in Parliament. They did not even allow amendements (to the bill)," she said.

In an apparent reference to the AAP government in Delhi, she said her party gave free water to the common public and did not just subsidise.