Anna Hazare’s rally at Gandhi Maidan on Wednesday was no match to late Jaiprakash Narayan’s on June 5, 1974. Hardly 15,000 people turned up at Anna’s rally in comparison to around 5 lakh in JP’s meeting at the same venue.
Four seniors made the task of The Telegraph of spotting the differences between the two rallies easier.
History made the difference between the two rallies, said Gandhian Razi Ahmad.
“JP’s cause was different from Anna, who started his journey from Jantar Mantar and Ramleela grounds in New Delhi. By the time he reached Gandhi Maidan, most of his aides had deserted him. JP’s rally was historic and crowd was unprecedented, you cannot compare it with Anna’s.”
He said: “I still remember, barricading was done at Bakhtiyarpur and Fatuha on the day of JP’s rally to prevent people from entering Patna. People came on boats to listen to JP. The Gandhi Sangrahalaya was packed. Even the AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies was packed.”
Razi termed Anna’s way of fulfiling his dream undemocratic. “JP was democratic. He formed Nayak Commission for improvement in education and V.M. Tarkunde Commission for electoral reforms. But Anna thinks his Jan Lokpal bill is the best and the government should implement it. It is completely undemocratic.”
He said JP’s political career started in 1920 and ended in 1978, whereas Anna is a relatively new phenomenon.
V.S. Dubey, the Patna district magistrate during the JP’s rally, said the crowd at Gandhi Maidan in 1974 was like that in Kumbh mela. “I have never seen such a huge crowd in my entire career in any rally after that. The district administration had to struggle to control the crowd, though they were disciplined. According to our estimate, around five lakh people gathered at Gandhi Maidan that day,” he said.
“I had deputed 10,000 policemen and 450 magistrates across the district. We faced problem only when two members of Indira Brigade opened fire at Hartali More. I had to personally go up to the stage and request JP to inform the crowd that the persons involved in the firing had been arrested. It was a mega event. There was hardly any place inside and outside Gandhi Maidan. Roads were chock-a-block.”
On Wednesday, the traffic was smooth.
An active member of Bhoodan Movement, 77-year-old Tapeshwar Bhai actively participated in the JP’s rally. He said there was a different kind of energy in the crowd. “The crowd at JP’s rally was different. People did not come with the National Flag. Nor they sported caps. They had firm belief in JP’s thoughts and ideologies. Anna’s movement, on the other hand, has diverted now. He is surrounded by opportunists.”
The former president of Bihar Sarvodaya Mandal said: “People used to listen to leaders like JP with attention and never passed any comment.”
Things were different at Anna’s rally. When he said he had taken the wickets of six ministers in Maharashtra, a teenager asked: “Did you take the wickets in Twenty20?”
Radhe Shyam Singh Yadav, who had also attended the historic rally, said: “Several women participated in JP’s rally, which is not visible in Anna’s congregation. They must be scared.”
Yadav was not off the mark. Some participants at Anna’s rally were reeking of liquor.