| A man sprinkles bleaching powder around Mamata’s dharna site on Thursday. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Dec. 25: The 22nd day of the fast. Hordes, some from far-off Bandel and Contai, have squeezed in time from their Christmas outing, to catch a glimpse of Mamata at Esplanade. Trinamul leaders show no signs of anxiety. They say Mamata hasn’t complained of any serious illness.
Dec. 28: The 25th day of the fast. Mamata has been on and off oxygen since Tuesday. Her blood pressure has dipped dangerously low. Trinamul leaders think “something” will happen soon. But will it happen today'
That was the question on the minds of party workers and the hundreds who flocked to Mamata’s dharna site at Metro Channel, hours before the Trinamul Congress chief called off her fast.
Despite the rush of onlookers, there was a hush that had descended over the place.
No chanting of slogans, no patriotic songs on the public address system and no cultural programmes. Even the lights on stage haven’t been switched on. “Her condition is deteriorating with every passing minute and the lights are hurting her eyes. All of us are worried about her health,” says party leader Madan Mitra, tired of answering queries about Mamata’s health.
As news of her plummeting pressure hit TV screens, thousands flocked to see Didi fighting. “I am a housewife with no political leanings. But after hearing of her failing health, I couldn’t sit at home. I just took my daughter and took a train,” said Shoma Ghosh. Even a queue of more than 200 didn’t dampen the Uttarpara lady’s desire as she waited patiently with her six-year-old daughter.
Some grew restless, though. “Chhelekhela hochche (Is it a joke)'” asked Debasish Santra, from Kalna. “Keep aside party-politics and rush her to hospital. If something happens to her, who will be responsible'” the furious 78-year-old snarled at Trinamul leaders near the stage.
Didi’s failing health had an unexpected casualty — the food vendors. Nobody — not Trinamul leaders, not the public — seemed interested in alur chop and jhalmuri. Till Thursday afternoon, food sellers had been making a killing.
However, a group far from Metro Channel was making some quick money. Enterprising bookies in Burrabazar and Howrah were placing bets on when Mamata would break her fast.
“If she breaks her fast between Thursday and Friday, a person gets 60 paise for every rupee. If she doesn’t, the rates will be 70 paise for every rupee,” said a bookie, busy gleaning information on the long innings at Esplanade.