I had images fresh in my mind of Azad Maidan and Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan overflowing with people during social activist Anna Hazare’s fast in August, but when I reached the Bandra-Kurla Complex grounds, I realised that this time the turnout was far less.
At 12.30 pm, as per police estimates, there were around 3,000 people at the venue, including more than 500 media representatives.
My meticulous planning concerning the roads to be avoided while getting to the grounds from Bandra (west) was also pointless — with no traffic or people on the way, I reached the BKC grounds in 12 minutes.
As I got there, for a second, I wondered if I had got the venue right.
The arrangements were well in place — lots of police and private security, freely flowing packaged water cups, well-managed registration and baggage counters and unlimited food and chai from ‘Anna ki Rasoi’, courtesy Team Anna.
The mood was light, as activists and supporters sung songs composed on Anna and Lokpal, people walked around sporting Anna caps, some bearing the tricolour and dancing to the songs.
There was a two-level dais with Anna sitting at the highest point with a sepia backdrop about the Constitution,
saying, ‘We, the people of India’.
Team Anna’s Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and Medha Patkar had nothing new to say or do: Bedi danced with the tricolour, Kejriwal criticised the government loudly and Patkar shouted catchy slogans to engage the crowd.
When Anna spoke in his usual half Marathi-half Hindi style, the crowds listened attentively. But again, he too had nothing new to say to Mumbai.
All along, there was a constant buzz with television reporters reporting on how the turnout was low and how his popularity is on the ebb.
None of this seemed to bother Anna, who kept moving to the tune of ‘Raghupati Raghava Rajaram’ and saying that the crowd is giving him “urja” [energy].
He was not referring to the thousands who did not come to support him, but the hundreds who made their way to the venue from the tribal areas of Thane, Palghar and his village Ralegan Siddhi, and those who were fasting with him.
They do not know the details of the lokpal Bill, they don’t understand what Kejriwal is saying. They only know that it is a fight against corruption and believe that Anna could help them win it.
Unsurprisingly, Anna refused to stop fasting despite the fact that he has fever.
“The doctors have checked me and I will continue with my fast. People die of heart attacks, I would rather die for my country,” said an adamant Hazare in his usual dramatic style.