Anna Hazare has made it clear that he is in no mood to fall into controversy with the state government.
During the stopover of his Jantantra Yatra on Wednesday here, he distanced himself from state issues such as law and order and the corruption charge against ministers. "The people of the state should stand up on their own for the problems concerning Punjab," he said, "I am thinking about the nation."
"Our first focus is (the) Jan Loakpal (bill), then right to reject, and then more powers to the gram sabha," said Anna, in the guest house of Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Power Plant (GNDTPP), where a picture of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal hung on the wall behind.
Team Anna should thank the local non-government organisations (NGOs) and the workers of both ruling parties in the state (the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)) for boosting the crowd number at the yatra that has received a lukewarm response in Punjab since its beginning from Amritsar on April 2.
Anna claimed Punjab had given him an overwhelming response. "We planned to hold street rallies during the yatra. I am pleased to see the huge crowd that has turned up. I am sure that the Jan Lokpal bill will be a reality," said Anna.
Neither Anna nor any other speaker made any reference to the state government in speeches but stances against the union government were clear. During the rally in Subash market, Bathinda, Anna said he would not die until Jan Lokpal was constituted. He took digs at central cabinet ministers Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram.
Former army chief general VK Singh (retd) said some political parties were tampering with the army's secular spirit.
Former Sikh hardliners were on the stage with Anna, while the Akali-BJP leaders were in the crowd. Hardliner Gurdeep Singh Brar, former vice-chairman of the Punjab health system corporation, not only shared the dais with Anna but also delivered a speech. He was also at the press conference. His is with the Sant Samaj led by Damdami Taksal president Baba Harman Singh Dhuma. Slain radical Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was also president of Damdami Taksal.
Blue and saffron turbans were aplenty on the stage, where Anna stood amid the cadre of the BJP, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), and other Hindu organisations. The Swami Vivekananda Study Circle was the event's official organiser. Deputy mayor Gurinder Mangat of the BJP was also in the crowd to support Anna.
Common man not near
As Anna spoke, common man watched from a distance. The crowd was good but only the organisers' families had the privilege to go near him.
A faction of the thermal power plant union, which was keen to meet Anna, had to wait two hours to get a glimpse of the social activist. "Anna wanted to meet all people but the organisers let no common man near him," said Gursewak Singh Sandhu, president of the trade union in Bathinda. "Had we not stood in front of his car, he would have left. After watching us, he told the organisers to let us meet him."
Anna's kurta was torn from near the pocket, as organisers jostled to get into photographs with him.