With an eye on the upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, opposition parties led by the Congress Monday observed a Bharat bandh over rising fuel prices.
While the BJD, TRS, and AIADMK did not participate in the shutdown, the SP and the BSP were missing from a joint protest in the national capital. The AAP made a surprise appearance. The Left organised a separate protest.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi led the protest in Delhi. Referring to the rising prices of petrol and diesel and the rupee-dollar exchange rate, he made a sarcastic quip: “(Prime Minister) Narendra Modi used to say that nothing has happened in 70 years, and we (BJP) will do what could not be done in four years. It is true — what he has done in four years has not happened in 70 years.”
Rahul accused the BJP of dividing the country and claimed that a united opposition will defeat the saffron party in the next General Election. Former Prime Minister Mahmohan Singh said it is time for all opposition parties to shed their differences and unite to save sovereignty and democracy.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi attended the protest but did not speak. Among other opposition leaders present were NCP chief Sharad Pawar, former Rajya Sabha member Sharad Yadav, DMK’s T K S Elangovan, RSP’s N K Premachandran, RJD’s Jaiprakash Yadav, AAP’s Sanjay Singh, JD(S)’s Danish Ali, and RLD’s Jayant Chaudhary.
Left leaders Sitaram Yechury (CPM), S Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja (CPI) held a separate protest at Jantar Mantar and courted symbolic arrest. Yechury said distressed people are forcing opposition parties to come together against the “anti-people” BJP government.
At the Congress-led protest, Rahul said, “Wherever you see, one Indian is fighting another. Wherever you go, they (BJP) divide people — (pitting) one religion against another, one caste against another, and one state pitted is against another…. Rupee has weakened like never before, petrol costs more than Rs 80 (per litre), diesel is a little less than Rs 80. Narendra Modi used to travel around the country talking about rise in prices of petrol and diesel. He doesn’t utter a word now… (a) gas (cylinder) which used to cost Rs 400 is now Rs 800…. Farmers are committing suicide and the Prime Minister is silent.”
Manmohan said the government has “done so many things which were not in national interest” and “now it has crossed all limits”. He said it is time the government is changed. He said people are unhappy, and farmers, small traders, and youth are stressed.