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Anna cries off Mamata election campaign

New Delhi, March 14: Anna Hazare, who used the excuse of “last-minute chest congestion” to skip the joint rally with Mamata Banerjee, today said he had stayed away because of the poor crowd at Ramlila Maidan.

“When I came to Delhi, by noon I found out there were only 2,000 or 2,500 people at the rally. I thought something was amiss as the Ramlila ground had not even 4,000 people…. This was a mistake, this was betrayal,” he said, claiming he had been misled by middlemen.

“I was told the rally was organised by Mamata Banerjee. She was told it was an Anna Hazare rally. This is deceit,” the 76-year-old social activist said.

Hazare then said he would have nothing to do with the Trinamul Congress from now on and would not campaign for its candidates. He would continue to endorse Mamata, he clarified, but would have no ties with her party as many people with allegedly questionable credentials had joined it.

“I have respect for Mamata Banerjee. Of all the chief ministers, she is the best. Her sacrifice, her character and her ideology are laudable. I supported her and not her party,” Hazare said.

The activist said he would not campaign for any party for the general election and did not approve of any leader competing for the Prime Minister’s post.

The Trinamul, too, appeared to have declared a split with Hazare. All posters having his pictures have been removed from the party’s 181 South Avenue office on Mamata’s orders.

“Before she left for Calcutta yesterday, she asked us to remove all the posters,” a Trinamul leader said.

The “war room” at 141 South Avenue that had been manned by Team Anna members earlier this week stood closed today. “Nobody is here. Go and inquire at 181 South Avenue,” a young boy at the spot said.

Till a couple of days ago, the three-bedroom flat had been buzzing with activity as over a dozen youngsters promoted the Hazare-Mamata duo on social media.

However, billboards of the duo put up at many bus stands have yet to be pulled down. Trinamul leaders said they would be removed by and by but refrained from reacting to Hazare’s disapproval of their party.

“After the rally, Mamatadi graciously said what needed to be said. We wish him well. We have nothing more to add,” Trinamul MP Derek O’Brien said.

The Trinamul office in Delhi, however, continued to receive ticket-seekers from north Indian states. Party leaders said they were not sure how many candidates would be fielded in heartland states with Trinamul having parted ways with Hazare. The party has so far declared 30 candidates outside Bengal.

The confusion in the party was understandable as Biswajit, the actor of the late sixties, was shifted from South Delhi to New Delhi constituency.

Party insiders said Biswajit figured out this morning that Chittaranjan Park, the Bengali-populated area in Delhi, was part of New Delhi constituency, not the South Delhi seat.

Biswajit then urged party leaders that he be given the New Delhi seat ticket. “Imagine, he is depending only on the Bengali voters of Chittaranjan Park to save his deposit,” a Trinamul leader said.