|Anna supporters share a hookah on Sunday, the fifth day of the agitation at Jantar Mantar. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, July 29: Anna Hazare’s decision to start an indefinite fast from today promptly brought in the crowds at Jantar Mantar, though the weekend may claim a part of the credit.
For the past four days, the 74-year-old had been sitting on a dharna at the venue as three younger team members fasted in support of his demands relating to the “Jan Lokpal Bill”.
This morning, as his four-day ultimatum to the government passed without response, Hazare announced he was joining the fast though his team members wanted him to refrain because of his health. As the news spread, the crowds swelled.
Team Anna claimed that nearly one lakh people visited the site but more realistic estimates put the figure at 10,000 — still more than three times the number of the past few days.
As the crowds returned, so did the smiles. Hazare associates, who were till yesterday accusing the media of under-reporting the attendance, lionised the same media today for reporting “the truth” despite the government’s alleged pressure.
The upbeat mood, however, couldn’t conceal the lack of cohesiveness within Team Anna, especially over yoga practitioner Ramdev’s role.
Second-rung team member Sanjay Singh today slammed Ramdev for sharing the dais with Narendra Modi in Gujarat and giving him a clean chit.
On Friday, Ramdev attended the Jantar Mantar protest but it turned out to be more a display of his crowd-pulling abilities over those of Team Anna.
Ramdev, who starts his agitation against black money from August 9 in Delhi, did not mention a single Team Anna member during his two-hour speech on Friday. The message seemed to be that he was with Hazare but not his lieutenants, whom he has described as a disparate group of “Leftists, Rightists and I don’t want to say what else”.
Key Hazare associate Arvind Kejriwal today released a book titled Swaraj, billed as the team’s manifesto.
Before starting his fast, Hazare said the protest outside the Prime Minister’s residence yesterday was a result of people’s anger but disapproved of their defacing of walls.
“How long will people tolerate, but if something like this (defacement of walls) has happened, I apologise for that. The slogans (written on the walls) were lowly. We should think before taking any such step as people are watching our agitation,” he told reporters.
Scores of Hazare supporters had yesterday protested outside the Prime Minister’s residence and thrown pieces of charcoal into the premises besides defacing walls.