States Brace for Bharat Bandh Today as Cong-led Opposition Promises Mega Stir Over Price Rise
Twenty-one opposition parties have responded positively to Congress' call for the agitation, besides several chambers of commerce and traders’ associations.
RJD leaders and workers hold a torchlight procession during a protest against the fuel price hike ahead of Bharat Bandh in Patna on Sunday. (PTI Photo)
Normal life is expected to be paralysed during the Bharat Bandh called by the Congress on Monday to protest against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government over price rise, fall of the rupee and other issues that “affect” the common man.
President of the Congress’s Karnataka unit, Dinesh Gundu Rao, said the shutdown was to convey people's 'anger and hardship' arising out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policies in the hope that he implements plans that benefit the masses.
Twenty-one opposition parties — including the Trinamool Congress, Janata Dal (Secular), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party, the Left front (CPI, CPM, CPI-ML, SUCI and Forward block), Nationalist Congress Party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal — have responded positively to the Congress’s call, besides several chambers of commerce and traders’ associations. The Opposition will kick start the protests from Rajghat at 8am.
However, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Shiv Sena have chosen to stay away from the stir. While the AAP said the Congress had no “moral authority” to call the agitation against price rise, the Sena — which shares a tumultuous relationship with the BJP — said it was adopting a “neutral” stand.
Karnataka is expected to bear the brunt of the agitation, with schools and colleges in Bengaluru declaring a holiday on Monday as a "precautionary measure". State buses will also remain off the roads as the KSRTC Staff and Workers Association has offered to support the bandh. Auto and taxi unions, however, are yet to take a call on the issue.
The West Bengal government has taken a slew of measures to maintain normal life during Bharat Bandh, including deploying additional police personnel. The ruling TMC has expressed support on the issues on which the shutdown has been called, but said it was against any kind of strike in the state as per the stated policy of party supremo and chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress unit asked people to help make the stir a success, even as Madhya Pradesh Petrol Pump Owners Association president Ajay Singh said fuel pumps would remain open on Monday.
Opposition leaders from Congress, RJD, HAM(S), Samajwadi Party and NCP held a joint press conference in Bihar on Sunday and appealed to various trade and industry bodies to make the bandh a grand success. RJD workers took to the streets on Sunday evening to garner support for the stir. Odisha decided to close down schools as a “precautionary measure”.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party (SP) declared that it would support Monday’s Bharat Bandh along with the Rashtriya Lok Dal. However, the Bahujan Samaj Party has not made any statement yet.
The opposition parties’ response to the agitation has been lukewarm in Kerala as the state is yet to recover from the flood devastation. While the Congress has appealed to people to observe the bandh, the Muslim League has announced it will not support the call.
Amid the growing support for Bharat Bandh, the Rajasthan government announced a four per cent reduction in value-added tax (VAT) on petrol and diesel on Sunday, which will reduce their prices by Rs 2.5 per litre in the state.
VAT on petrol will be reduced from 30 to 26 per cent and on diesel from 22 to 18 per cent, chief minister Vasundhara Raje said on Sunday.
However, senior Congress Ashok Gehlot said Raje was forced to reduce tax after the Congress’s agitation call received widespread public support.
पेट्रोल-डीजल की बढ़ी हुई दरों को देखते हुए जो 4 प्रतिशत वैट कम किया है, वह नाकाफी है तथा रसोई पर बढ़ते महंगाई के दबाव को देखते हुए अविलम्ब गैस सिलेण्डर पर भी राहत दी जानी चाहिए।#FuelPriceHike #Rajasthan— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) 9 September 2018
In the tweet, Gehlot also said the four per cent reduction was insufficient and demanded that the chief minister announce immediate relief on gas cylinders too.
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