Anna Hazare stays away from Trinamool rally

In an indication of her unwillingness to support Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, Trinamool Congress chairperson and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday claimed that the leader of Gujarat was communal. “The face of Gujarat is communal. Not the people, but the leader of Gujarat is communal,” she said at a rally on the Ramlila ground here.

Later, at a press conference, Ms. Banerjee discounted the notion that Mr. Modi was the main challenger to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. “He is not an opponent. It is all a show,” she claimed.

But the rally, which was meant to highlight the coming together of the TMC and Team Anna and serve as a launch vehicle for her national ambitions, drew only a thin crowd. After publicly backing Ms. Banerjee as a prime ministerial candidate, Anna Hazare embarrassed her by not showing up.

Even though he was present in Delhi, the 74-year-old social activist stayed away, saying he was not well. Some of his followers explained that he would have made an effort to come had the crowd been sizable at the venue from where he began his heady campaign, along with Arvind Kejriwal, against corruption in 2012.

In effect the rally was meant to be her launch vehicle for a central role in national politics. The rally was redeemed only by Ms. Banerjee’s spirited address, in which she boldly declared that “jo ladai humne shuru ki hai, woh jaari rahegi, chaahe koi saath de ya na de (we will continue our struggle whether people support us or not).”

Hiding her disappointment, the West Bengal Chief Minister said it was Anna’s rally and she had left important engagements and come all the way from Kolkata “as promised” to attend it.

She alleged that the Congress and the BJP were a syndicate with an “understanding” with the CPI(M) and other parties. In the case of Telangana, the syndicate got together to pass the Bill in Parliament without any amendment. “There is not third front, only a federal front [launched by her] which will be strengthened.”

She charged that the CPI(M), the BJP and the Congress were conspiring to eliminate her. “Whoever talks with commitment is threatened politically and physically but I am ready for any sacrifice for the people.”

Ms. Banerjee also questioned the Gujarat model of development. The development model of every State was different, she said, claiming that under her West Bengal had achieved a GDP of 7.71 per cent against the national average of 4.9 per cent.

Mr. Hazare was supposed to meet the media also but the press conference was called off at the last minute.

Just last fortnight Mr. Hazare declared that as Ms. Banerjee was the only politician to have responded to his 17-point charter, he would help her find clean candidates and campaign for them.

Many saw in this an attempt to take on his estranged colleague and Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal in the Lok Sabha election.

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