The much-hyped joint rally of Mamata Banerjee and Anna Hazare here today turned out to be a disappointing affair with the anti-corruption crusader giving it a miss, triggering a blame game.
The rally at Ramlila ground was billed to be a platform to launch Banerjee's national ambitions with Hazare on the dais but it turned out to be just a Trinamool Congress rally.
Hazare, who recently expressed his support for Banerjee and her party, arrived here from Maharashtra only last night ostensibly to attend the rally but did not turn up at the rally even though it was delayed by hours.
Just before the rally, he said he would attend but he skipped, after which his aides said he could not go because he was unwell.
Banerjee's close aide Mukul Roy later went to meet Hazare in Maharashtra Sadan here but it was not clear as to what transpired.
Visibly upset over the low turnout, Banerjee claimed that the rally had been organised not by Trinamool but by Anna Hazare's supporters which she had come merely to attend.
"It was their rally, not our rally. They invited us and I came on their invitation," she said while trying to wriggle out of the embarrassment over the poor turnout.
"It was not a political meeting. It was a social meeting. I was invited. I made the commitment to come here and I came," she told reporters later and went on to claim that there were not many Trinamool flags and banners as it was not her party's rally.
She, however, refused to say anything against Hazare, saying she respected him and his "desire".
On the other hand, Hazare's aides insisted that it was Trinamool Congress' rally and the poor turnout was because it was organised at wrong time and day.
"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," Hazare's aide Sunita Godara told reporters.
On Hazare skipping the rally, Godara said, "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."
Significantly, an Imam of Kolkata had threatened to stop supporting Bannerjee if she shares dais with Hazare.