THE nationwide bandh called by Opposition parties today saw the unusual spectacle of Left leaders sharing the stage with top BJP leaders here. They also seemed to follow the same script,with both the Right and Left accusing the UPA government of being anti-poor,anti-national and pro-US.
However,while CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury and CPI leader A B Bardhan joined BJP president Nitin Gadkari,senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi and NDA convenor Sharad Yadav at a protest organised by a traders body,Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav chose to stay away.
A few minutes later,Mulayam participated in a joint protest with CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat,CPI leader D Raja,TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu and JD(S) president H D Deve Gowda just some metres away. They all courted arrest along with Yechury and Bardhan,but were later released.
Stating that his party would not tolerate anti-people decisions like an increase in diesel prices and FDI in retail,Mulayam reiterated that the SP was supporting the UPA government only to keep communal forces at bay. But we will not support price rise, he warned.
While stating that there is no formal alliance at present,Mulayam said todays united action has the potential of evolving into another front. Asked whether this would lead to the emergence of a Third Front,he said: What will be a bigger example than this?
He said if the UPA government does not roll back its decisions immediately we will announce together a strategy to hold a big agitation. Karat also urged Mulayam to lead the fight against the government,both inside and outside Parliament.
Meanwhile,both Gadkari and Bardhan tried to play down the issue of the Left and BJP coming together. It was a platform of traders. They had invited all of us to protest against allowing FDI in retail. We are all opposed to that decision, said Bardhan,adding that they may have different ideologies but are one when it comes to fighting for the people. He even praised Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee for her decision to pull out of the UPA government.
Gadkari said it was a non-political platform as the issue was of the livelihood of traders. At one point,Yechury was seated between JD(U) president Sharad Yadav and Gadkari.
Both Bardhan and Joshi accused the government of opening up the retail sector to FDI at the instance of the US. Bardhan said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was trying to please US President Barack Obama while Joshi claimed the Congress was trying to make traders and people slaves of the US and other western countries.