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Poor turnout at Ramlila Maidan leaves Team Anna disappointed

New Delhi: Team Anna’s Lokpal bill protest here elicited a lukewarm response today with organisers blaming winter chill and absence of Anna Hazare for the poor turnout at Ramlila Maidan.

The morning and evening crowd was thin in contrast to the one witnessed during Hazare’s earlier three protests in the past eight months.

The protest venue which saw 30,000 to 40,000 pour in in August, saw only about 500 people turning up in the morning. As the sun came out, the number went up to 1,000-2,000 but again dropped to a few hundred in the evening.

The beginning itself was not auspicious for Team Anna as it was a delayed start, 90 minutes from the scheduled 10 am, as not many protesters turned up. The leader of the protest Shanti Bhushan himself came to the podium at 10:30 am though another Team Anna member and his son Prashant Bhushan was at the venue before explaining to media persons about the protest and the delayed start.

Hazare was supposed to sit on a fast here but the venue was changed taking into consideration the weather in the capital. The activist is staging a three-day fast in Mumbai.

Prashant blamed the chilly and foggy weather for the low turnout in the morning. “I am sure people will come here as well. It is a cold day, foggy day today. It will take sometime for people to turn up. They will come, don’t worry,” he said.

Activist Gopal Rai said winter and probably the absence of Hazare may be the reason for the thin turnout. Addressing protesters, Shanti Bhushan said government was worried about the re-election of their MPs if a strong Lokpal Bill is passed and said that it will have to bend before people’s will on the issue.

“The government is suffering from slipped disc, it is not bending willingly but it has to bend this time also,” Bhushan, who is sitting on fast here in support of Anna Hazare for a strong Lokpal, said.

“We will see to it that parties which opposed the formation of a strong Lokpal in Parliament are taught a lesson. People will vote these parties out which opposed the provisions in making of a strong Lokpal,” he said.

At the venue, some protesters shouted slogans when the organisers showed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s speech in Lok Sabha. The tight security put in place for the fast also seemed unnecessary with police personnel having little to do due to the low turnout.

“Although few people have turned up, we have been asked to maintain vigil on all three days to avoid any untoward incident,” said Rakesh Nanda, a constable on duty. Fewer “I’m with Anna” caps bobbed among the gathering of media persons and security personnel, with supporters blaming the winter chill and absence of Anna Hazare for the low turnout.

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