Mumbai, Dec. 28: Anna Hazare today called off a protest programme that would have spilled over into New Year's Day after an attempt by his team to whip up sympathy through a steady flow of health alerts failed to make a big difference.
"We had hoped that reports of Anna's ill health will at least inspire people to come and join him. But Mumbai disappointed," said Mayank Gandhi, a member of Team Anna.
Hazare not only called off his fast on the second day but also suspended the proposed "jail bharo" agitation for which nearly 1.9 lakh people had registered themselves. He vowed to defeat the "betrayer" Congress in the Assembly elections early next year.
Hazare, 74, broke his fast at 6.45pm by sipping lime juice offered by Prateeksha Khandale, a girl from his village Ralegan Siddhi.
Asked if poor turnout was the main reason for calling off the agitation, Hazare said: "It is not correct (that he has not received public support). I don't have power, money... yet so many people have come here. Is the crowd not good enough? People across the country have joined the movement. You will get to see our popularity when we campaign during the elections."
The high-decibel campaign on the status of Hazare's health had begun late last evening when it became clear that Mumbaikars did not turn up in strength even after office hours as Team Anna had hoped.
Text messages from volunteers of India Against Corruption (IAC), which organised the protest, claimed that Hazare's condition was so serious that "he will have to be shifted to some hospital on an emergency basis".
Ambulances were summoned and photographs of a listless Anna, lying on a bed with his eyes closed and surrounded by friends and aides, were circulated.
"He is not in a state to speak. We are very worried. What he has done for the country is unbelievable. His sacrifice will be remembered," said a member of Team Anna in the early hours of Wednesday.
Still, when morning broke, the crowd count stood at no more than 600, though it picked up around 2.30pm when Hazare appeared on the dais. Team Anna claimed the turnout was between 50,000 and 60,000 when Hazare ended the fast.
At least one doctor who examined Hazare said that though doctors were extremely concerned about the fallout of the fast on his health, the condition had not worsened to a level that demanded emergency intervention.
"Please remember the state would have intervened if that had been the case. A makeshift clinic was also set up for him on MMRDA Grounds," Dr T.P. Lahane of JJ Hospital told The Telegraph.
"We have medically advised him not to undertake similar fasts in the future as it can affect his kidneys and may have an adverse impact on his health in the future," Dr Lahane said. Sources in the Maharashtra health department said the state government wanted to find out first hand the condition of Hazare. "This is why the Maharashtra chief minister instructed us to send a team of state government doctors to examine Anna on Tuesday night," said the source.
Team Anna also requested a panel of eminent doctors to announce Anna's health status from the stage. "While lying down his blood pressure reads 130/90 but while standing, it is 105/70, indicating dryness and dehydration. He is running a temperature of 100 degrees. There is evidence of dehydration. His sodium levels are low. His creatinine level (an indicator of kidney functioning) is a little worse off than his last test," said Ashwin Mehta of Jaslok Hospital.
Daulat Pote, a doctor who hails from Anna's village, had earlier claimed that the activist's blood pressure stood at 150/90. "He spent a comfortable night. His pulse rate has come down to 72 from 96, and blood pressure is 150/90. I weighed him a little earlier, he weighed 70.5 kg, he seems to have lost about a kg and a half since Friday," Pote said.
Team Anna's search for crowd multipliers also did not yield results. On Tuesday, an IAC functionary had claimed that yoga practitioner Ramdev was expected to join the protest in Mumbai and bring in his followers.
But Team Anna discovered on today, by when the tepid response was apparent, that it could not get in touch with Ramdev. "We could not speak to him. He is still in his Hardwar ashram," the IAC functionary said.
Medha Patkar, who yesterday said that Team Anna needed to review its methods of protest, said she was on her way to Nanded today for "pre-planned programmes" of the Baba Amte Trust.
Kiran Bedi was in Delhi making an unsuccessful bid to garner crowds at the Ramlila Maidan.
I am glad that Anna has given up his fast.
Although he had said that he was ready to give up his life for the cause of a strong Lokpal bill, I for one felt that life was more important. We are given life once my God and we should care for it and not take unnecessary risks to extinguish it prematurely.
India needs Anna more than our MPs. There are many other causes still to fight for before India can raise its head with pride. Presently India leads in the wrong things. Most corrupt nation, least transparency, most female fratricide, most rapes, most criminal legislators in parliament, highest child death, highest poverty. Oh the list could go one.
We saw how the debate raged in Parliament. One and all MPs, irrespective of party affiliations, were making a mockery of this bill which would curb their corruption. Finally what came out was a watered down version of an effective bill.
The BJP was the worst culprit. It tried to postpone consideration of the bill for three months. Why?
Because the did not want the Congress to get any credit for getting the bill passed.
I was really shocked to read Sushma Swaraj's speech.
As I said, there are many other causes for Anna.
1.First and foremost, an overhaul of the system by which criminals and can become legislators.
2. One person should not be allowed to stand from more than one constituency.
3. Electoral expenses of genuine candidates should be borne by the government. Genuine candidates are those who can claim to get more than 10% of the cast votes.
4. Rejection of all candidates, if none are found to be suitable - None vote.
5. A person should get elected only after procuring 50% of the cast votes. For this 2nd, 3rd and 4th preference votes should be allowed. The candidate who comes last should have 2nd preference votes transferred and so on until any candidate crosses the 50% mark. Then only will a candidate be a true representative of the people.
3. EVMs are good step forward but we should have mobile voting. The telecom companies should device a system by which each person can use one Unique Cellphone no for casting his vote. Once his vote is cast that number is disables so that he cannot cast a second vote with that number. This would reduce our Electoral expenses. Further, it would aid us in recalling inefficient and corrupt legislators