West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee asserted twice on Thursday that people from outside Delhi “had not been brought” in to attend her rally. But of the few rows that were occupied, most people said they had travelled to the capital by train, and many of them were seeing the “leader from Bengal” for the first time.
Shatrughan Kumar, a ticket hopeful from Samastipur, said about 70-80 people from the area accompanied him on two trains — the Sampark Kranti and Vaishali Express. “I contested on an SP ticket in the last Lok Sabha polls, and I stood third. This time, I am keen to contest on a TMC ticket because Anna Hazare is with her. Senior TMC leaders are impressed with my work and have assured me of a ticket. So I brought people from my area with me… we all reached yesterday,” he said. Kumar and his supporters were, however, disappointed with Hazare’s no-show at Ramlila Maidan.
Maya, a resident of Samastipur, said, “We came because our pradhan said we were going to support a big leader from Bengal. But nobody has come yet. They are just playing very loud music. We had to spend the night at the railway station because it was raining so heavily. But she has not turned up yet.”
Mamata addressed the rally four hours behind schedule.
A large group of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) supporters, many of them women and children, had come from different parts of Uttar Pradesh — Etah, Agra and Barabanki among other areas.
Occupying most of the middle row, many in this group said they were seeing Mamata for the first time. Kesari Devi, from Etah, said about 200 people from her area had arrived in Delhi by train on Tuesday evening.
Asked if she was a Hazare supporter or with the TMC, she replied, “I don’t know either of them. Our kisan union leaders brought us here to see two big leaders, but only one woman spoke after making us wait for so long. Many women from our group started feeling dizzy in the heat… but we understood that she said she was for the kisans,” she said.
“That is why our district chief of the union must have insisted that we should come here… we have to support leaders who support farmers,” her neighbour, Tulsi, added.
Shiv Pratap Singh, chief of the Jaunpur BKU unit, instructed the rows of women to raise their hands in support when Mamata took the stage at about 2 pm. “That is the neta… say didi ki jai, that is the leader,” he shouted. “Our people don’t know Mamata because she is from Bengal… we are traditionally Hazare’s supporters. We have joined Didi because of him. We thought it would be nice if women show their support to her,” he said.
Then there were TMC workers from West Bengal. “How can a TMC rally be conducted without its workers from Bengal? We have come from Kolkata with our leader Mukul Roy, and a separate group has come from Howrah,” said a party worker. Their party colleagues from Delhi were also present.
Bengali traders from Delhi, claiming to be a “minority” group, were also present. “Who will take up the Bengali cause in Delhi? We are a minority in the trading community, everybody takes advantage of us. Didi is the only hope,” said Utpal Hazra, who runs a gold jewellery manufacturing unit in Chandni Chowk.