Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare's aides have cited health problems for his skipping the rally addressed by Mamata Banerjee here after the event billed as a platform to launch the Trinamool Congress chief's national ambitions received a lukewarm response
New Delhi: Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare today skipped a rally addressed here by TMC chief Mamata Bannerjee who attacked Narendra Modi and ruled out support to either Congress or BJP after the Lok Sabha polls. What was billed to be a platform to launch Bannerjee's national ambitions with Hazare on the dais turned out to be just a Trinamool Congress rally.
Hazare's aides today cited health problems for his skipping the rally, who arrived here only last night ostensibly to attend the rally.
Hazare, who has expressed his support to Trinamool Congress and Bannerjee brushing aside his protege Arvind Kejriwal's party, had earlier in the day said he would attend the rally.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee addresses an election rally in New Delhi on Wednesday. Pic/AFP
Significantly, an Imam of Kolkata had issued a threat that he would withdraw support to Bannerjee if she shares dais with Hazare.
Later, TMC leader Mukul Roy went to Maharashtra Sadan here and met Hazare.
At the thinly-attended rally in Ramlila ground, Banerjee targetted both Congress and BJP besides arch-rivals Left parties.
She singled out Modi without naming him saying 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 absence of Hazare, Mamata later told reporters, "It was not a political meeting. It was a social meeting. He was invited. I made the commitment to come here and I came."
She further said that she came to the rally to keep her promise, but she did not have any idea why Hazare did not come to the rally.
"It was his rally. I had come here at his request. I do not know why he did not come. I have no idea," she said. Dodging questions on Hazare's absence, she said," I have respect for Annaji. He is a a senior person. I respect his desire."
On the poor turnout at the Ramlila ground, she said, "People in this ground are brought from outside. We could also have done the same. But, this is election time."
Replying to a question, she said, "TMC is fighting the battle alone and it will continue to do so. In panchayat election also, we contested alone. We will also fight in Gujarat, Assam, Tripura, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh."
The rally, which started after a long delay, was attended by yestyear cine star Biswajeet. Palamu MP Kameshwar Baitha formally joined the party.
Mamata said at the rally that Biswajeet would contest the Lok Sabha election.
She said "there were rains yesterday but still people came for the rally. Even these ten people will grow to 10 lakh."
Taking a dig at Modi she said the infant mortality rate is less in Bengal than Gujarat. While the national average is 44, in Gujarat it is 41 but in West Bengal it is 32, she 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," Sunita Godara, Anna's aide, told reporters.
Hazare's aides played down the thin turnout at the rally, saying it was a working day and people had to work to earn their livlihood. "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," Godara said.
Banerjee targeted both Congress and BJP besides arch-rivals Left parties during the rally and also singled out Narendra Modi without naming him saying the "leader of Gujarat" is "communal".
She rubbished his claim about development in the state under his leadership. Meanwhile, Gen V K Singh, who recently joined BJP, also met Hazare here today but ruled out any political move behind it.
"Can't I meet him without any purpose? He is unwell. Everytime he comes to Delhi, we meet. He is here so I came to meet him," Singh said.
He declined to comment on Banerjee's speech. "I do not know what Mamataji is saying. I have come here to see Anna. He is unwell. If Annaji wishes and if his principles let him, he can campaign for me," Singh said.