Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare's aides today cited health problems for his skipping the rally addressed by Mamata Banerjee here after the event billed as a platform to launch the Trinamool Congress chief's national ambitions received a lukewarm response.
"Anna ji's health is our priority. So if he is unwell, he should not come out in this sunlight. And if he has decided, then he would be correct to do so. Anna had to convey a message, Mamataji is conveying the message," Sunita Godara, Anna's aide, told reporters.
During the rally, no reason was given for the absence of Hazare, who arrived here only last night ostensibly to attend the rally.
Hazare, who has expressed his support to Trinamool Congress and Bannerjee while snubbing his protege Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi party, had earlier said he would attend the rally.
Significantly, an Imam of Kolkata had issued a threat that he would withdraw support to Bannerjee if she shares dais with Hazare.
Hazare's aides also plaued down the thin turnout at the rally, saying it was a working day and people had to work to earn their livlihood.
"When does public gather? It should be a Sunday, evening time, should be a holiday to gather more people. People need to work for food and water...people gather on holidays more," Godara said.
Banerjee targeted both Congress and BJP besides arch-rivals Left parties during the rally and also singled out Narendra Modi without naming him saying the "leader of Gujarat" is "communal". She rubbished his claim about development in the state under his leadership.
Meanwhile, Gen V K Singh, who recently joined BJP, also met Hazare here today but ruled out any political move behind it.
"Can't I meet him without any purpose? He is unwell.
Everytime he comes to Delhi, we meet. He is here so I came to meet him," Singh said.
He declined to comment on Banerjee's speech.
"I do not know what Mamataji is saying. I have come here to see Anna. He is unwell. If Annaji wishes and if his principles let him, he can campaign for me," Singh said.