The Congress has called a Bharat Bandh on September 10 over rising fuel prices and said that several opposition parties, including the Samajwadi Party, DMK and the NCP, have extended support to its call. While the Left parties have given a separate call for bandh on the same day, the Trinamool Congress will organise street protests but would not enforce a shutdown in West Bengal.
Top opposition leaders, including Congress’s Ashok Gehlot and Ahmed Patel, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and NCP’s Tariq Anwar met at rebel JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav’s residence during which the decision to call a bandh was finalised. AICC general secretaries, in-charge of states and PCC presidents met separately to finalise the party’s programme. Parties like the RJD,NCP, JD(S), JVM and JMM have extended their support to the bandh call, sources said.
“Most of the parties have given consent…but consultation is going on with three or four parties. We have not yet spoken to the BSP. As far as the Trinamool Congress is concerned, they have agreed for the agitation. They will not give the bandh call,” AICC treasurer Ahmed Patel told reporters. Gehlot said the bandh is to awaken the government and vent the people’s anger.
The Congress has also asked civil society groups and NGOs to join the bandh, which will be observed between 9 am and 3 pm.
Sharad Yadav said the bandh is being called by almost all the opposition parties. Citing several reasons, he said the BJP governments at the Centre and in states have failed to discharge duties. While the prices of petrol and diesel have touched a record high, Yadav said, attacks against Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs have increased sharply. “Violence against minorities has become a daily affair in the name of cow protection and farmers earning their livelihood through livestock have been badly affected. The government has failed on all accounts and their failures are… difficult to count,” he said.
“Unprecedented economic burdens are being mounted on the people by the Modi government. The exponentially rising prices of petroleum products is having a crippling effect on the livelihood of crores of Indians. The farmers, already groaning under mounting agrarian distress, see their production costs further escalated. This price rise has a cascading all-round inflationary impact. This is contributing to a further economic slowdown reducing existing employment, leave alone creating any new opportunities,” five Left parties said in a joint statement.
Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said the BJP government is fleecing the common man by increasing excise duties on petrol and diesel. In the last four-and-a-half years, the government has earned Rs 11 lakh crore from taxes on fuels, puncturing the common man’s household budget, he said. Surjewala said the prices of petrol and diesel have gone up by around 50 per cent while the excise duties on petrol and diesel have risen by 211 and 443 per cent, respectively, since 2014.
“This is unprecedented. Yet the Prime Minister chooses to remain silent. There should be an immediate reduction of central excise duty as also excessive VAT in the states. Petrol and diesel should be brought under the GST which would give some relief to the people,” Surjewala said. He said the bandh would be between 9 am and 3 pm “so that the common person is not inconvenienced”.