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Hazare's popularity dwindling? Poor turnout at fast venue

Last updated on: July 26, 2012 17:11 IST

Hazare's popularity dwindling? Poor turnout at fast venue

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The indefinite fast by Team Anna against the United Progressive Alliance government on corruption entered the second day on Thursday but questions cropped up as to whether the anti-corruption movement has lost its steam.Unlike in the past, crowds that had thronged the protest venue were missing now.

The organisers issued appeals to "mothers, wives and daughters" to flock to the protest site at Jantar Mantar on Friday.

The crowd count on Thursday afternoon was less than 1,000, a marginal improvement from morning's 600, in a contrast to its earlier protests when Jantar Mantar, the dharna hotspot, was jam-packed. The response to the fast on the first day – Wednesday -- was also modest with 2,500-3,000 people attending it.Anna Hazare and his aides took the dais at 11 am only though a Team Anna spokesperson said they had reached the spot an hour before.

They were greeted with lukewarm chants of 'Bharat Mata ki Jai, Vande Mataram and Inquilab Zindabad'. The counters for donation, information, volunteer registration wore a deserted look while more than half of the protest venue was empty.

As there were no action taking place and less enthusiasm in the crowd, media persons who were in large numbers also took a break from live coverage.Arvind Kejriwal, one of the three Team Anna members who is fasting, went to Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh to attend a court hearing on his remarks against MPs calling them "criminals and rapists". Before leaving for the court, he said he did not think he had done anything wrong.

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Image: A supporter of veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare, takes part in a protest in New Delhi July 25
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters

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Hazare's popularity dwindling? Poor turnout at fast venue

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Apparently worried over the low attendance, Team Anna member Kiran Bedi appealed to the protesters to bring their "wives, mothers and daughters" to the venue on Friday.

"Regret to see audience is predominantly male. It is said that we vote for a saree or a bottle of alcohol. We are being fooled. More than 50 per cent of those who vote are women. Why are they not seen here," she asked.

Reminding people that the ground was full during the Ramlila agitation last August, Bedi asked, "Are you afraid of being caught on live TV at an anti-corruption protest."

Appealing to people to flock the venue, as it is a fight for finish, Bedi said people have to take to the streets as their are becoming victims of corruption. "You may ask what is benefit in protesting. It is for the future generation. I am more than 60 years old and I will also die. What is the benefit to protest? If we win this battle, we will leave a corruption-free India for our children. That is the benefit," she said.

Addressing protesters, lawyer Prashant Bhushan responded to Law Minister Salman Khurshid's jibe that they should approach United Nations if they do not subscribe to Supreme Court rejecting charges against Union ministers."His claim that the Supreme Court has cleared ministers is false. The apex court has not cleared a single charge. It is not that the allegations levelled do not warrant an independent probe," he said.

Image: A supporter of Hazare shouts slogans as he takes part in a protest in New Delhi
Photographs: Ahmad Masood/Reuters

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Countering views that Team Anna has changed its course on Lokpal, he said the demand for probe against 15 Union ministers is part of Lokpal agitation.

"This country is going in a fast pace towards destruction. Soon in future, it will be totally destroyed. We have to stop this," he said.

Kumar Vishwas, another Team Anna member, also responded to Khurshid's statement saying he has doubts about the intelligence of the Law Minister, who is foreign educated.

"I studied in a municipal school. Our law minister is foreign educated and considered sensible. But after his comment that we go to UN, I have doubts about his degree and intelligence," he said.

Team Anna launched the agitation on Wednesday raising the pitch against the UPA on corruption issue with activists attacking new President Pranab Mukherjee though Hazare refrained from making any personal remarks.

Hazare stuck to his pet theme of bringing a strong Lokpal Bill and threatened a 'jail bharo' agitation if government does not concede to his demands and campaigning for candidates chosen by people in the next Lok Sabha elections.


Image: Anna Hazare runs from his supporters after paying respects at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Rajghat, ahead of his protest against corruption in New Delhi July 25
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters

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Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters
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