3.10pm: Mamata Banerjee boasts record turn-out in govt offices
While the BJP is busy drumming up support for its bandh and has been profusely thanking 'all parties' for their backing, Mamata Banerjee, true to herself chose to walk her own path. She had initially requested the bandh to be withdrawn and has now come out to say that the state functioned perfectly while the rest of the country reeled under bandhs. "Eighty-nine percent of government workers have turned up today. It's a record attendance. So many people don't come in normal days. This shows our work culture and the respect we have for businesses and the economy," said Banerjee, battered from allegations that she does nothing to uplift the state's economy.
The CPI(M), as usual, bore the brunt of Banerjee's firing as Congress, strangely enough, was let off with a mild jibe - Banerjee called the party one which chops the same branch they are sitting on! "We object to the government's decision, we have made a political decision and withdrawn support. But the economy should not suffer because of that. Our politics is not in line with the CPI(M)'s ugly, corrosive, regressive politics which has sent the state to the dumps," she said.
"Every time the Centre hikes some fare, these people go on the bandh. What is this rubbish?" she asked. "There's no need to compel me to open my mouth. I have worked in the Centre and have been in politics to know that these bandhs don't work."
"I can understand why Centre government employees turned up. Poor things are scared - given how the Centre works, they can take away their pension, insurance etc," she added, peppering her address with a generous does of Bengali rhetoric.
Asked if she would accompany her ministers to Delhi, when they go to submit their resignation, Mamata quipped, "Why? To bargain, to ease our burden as you say? No!"
3.10pm: BJP thanks parties for setting aside 'differences' to support bandh
BJP leaders took turns to keep the Congress-hammering going. Nitin Gadkari pointed out that the government did nothing to bring black money back and reiterated the party's old argument against FDI - that the issue was raked to divert popular attention from 'big ticket scams'. Gadkari repeated Mamata Banerjee's argument that FDI will kill the 'small business class' and thanked all political parties for supporting the bandh, despite 'ideaological differences'.
2.19pm: Trouble for Cong? Mulayam revives 'third front' talk
In what can only be worrying for the Congress, Samajawadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav has revived talk of a 'third front'. Mulayam chose to walk with the Left leaders after joining the bharat bandh today and said, "The third Front stands united against the government".
He later said, "No one is happy with government decisions".
Yadav walked with the Left protestors to the Parliament street police station and courted arrest, where a number of his supporters chanted slogans like, Mulayam Singh Yadav zindabad, Samajwadi Party zindabad!
2.15pm: TDP will fight 'anti-people' decisions
TDP's Chandrababu Naidu has spoken out, saying that they were protesting issues that were anti-people. " We are interested in public issues. Everyday we are not going to threaten the government, but it is taking anti-people decisions like diesel price hike, LPG restrictions", he told reporters in Delhi.
1.49pm: 'We hear you, now go back to work' says Cong
Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Salman Khurshid have told the Opposition parties that they have made their point, and asked them to get back to work. Salman Khurshid told reporters, "The opposition has shown its protest. Now lets get back to work. Back to our offices, factories, schools & colleges."
Earlier Finance Minister P Chidambaram told reporters, "I think protesting a decision on economy should not be done in a way that causes economic losses".
1.46pm: Police release Mulayam, Left leaders
Police release Mulayam Singh Yadav, Left leaders, and protestors begin leaving the Parliament Street police station premises. Slogans like "Barhaye diesel ke dam wapis lo", "FDI in retail wapis lo" were chanted, with announcers appealing for calm.
1.20 pm: Mulayam Singh courts arrest
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav courts arrest in New Delhi. Left leaders Sitaram Yechury, Chandrababu Naidu, Prakash Karat and AB Bardhan have also courted arrest.
1. 15 pm: Mulayam Singh Yadav not to share dais with NDA
Reports say Samajwadi Party chief chief Mulayam Singh Yadav will not share dais with NDA at Jantar Mantar. Earlier he was expected to join them in the protest against diesel price hike and FDI in retail. Mulayam Singh marches towards Sansad Marg police station with Left leader Chandrababu Naidu and begins his protest against the government.
1.00 pm: BJP leaders BS Yeddyurappa, Ananth Kumar arrested in Bangalore
BJP leaders have been arrested for their protest against the government. BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu has been detained in Hyderabad, Yeddyurappa and Ananth Kumar have been arrested in Bangalore. BJP Bihar unit president CP Thakur has been arrested in Patna.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla, reacting to the protests said that the protests are useless. "First states protesting hike should cut fuel tax before taking to the streets, " he said. He added, "Middle men along with BJP deceiving common people on FDI."
12.44pm: Gopinath Munde arrested in Mumbai
Gopinath Munde has been arrested in Mumbai for protesting against the government. This is despite the fact that life in Mumbai is fairly normal, as the bandh is not being fully enforced in the city.
12.26 pm: Yechury says govt trying to help foreigners at cost of Indians
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury has accused the government of selling out the country to serve the interests of foreigners. "Congress wants Indians to be slaves, and foreigners to be our masters. We will not accept FDI in retail. We will protest this decision till our last breath", he said.
12.17 pm: Nitin Gadkari at Jantar Mantar, Ambika Soni slams 'anti-people' bandh
The BJP has upped the intensity of their protests across the country, with several national leaders courting arrest. BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad was among many BJP activists in Patna, while in Delhi BJP President Nitin Gadkari has joined protestors who are at Jantar Mantar.
Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Ambika Soni slammed the Bandh for being 'anti-people', saying that by enforcing a shut down, the opposition were preventing the poor from earning whatever little money they could earn. She also said she was "surprised" that UPA allies were resorting to striking as well.
11:30 am: BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad detained by police
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad was among many BJP activists who have been detained by the police after they held a protest rally against the UPA government's economic decisions in Patna.
Prasad was reportedly leading a group of protesters when he was stopped by the police, and he along with the BJP state unit chief courted arrest.
11.15 am: Bandh in Delhi, city doesn't stop functioning
The bandh called by NDA, Left parties and UPA supporters SP and JD(S) today evoked a mixed response in the capital with most markets remaining closed while vehicular movement was normal though protesters blocked traffic at some places.
Small shops were seen open in the morning hours though big markets like Khan Market, Connaught Place, Greater Kailash, Karol Bagh, Chandni Chowk and Kashmere Gate were shut.
However, shops in some areas like Bhogal, Laxmi Nagar, Defence Colony and South Extension were open. Autos and buses were operating though auto drivers at New Delhi Railway station staged a protest and refused to ply.
Buses of state-run Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) were on roads in large numbers. Most of the private schools remained closed. BJP supporters blocked vehicular movement on Vikas Marg.
A BJP spokesperson said they will be staging protests at around 100 locations in the capital. A senior police official said a large number of personnel have been deployed.
"We have ensured that every major road has police presence," he said. PTI
11:00 am: Tamil Nadu almost completely shut with both major parties backing bandh
PTI reports from Chennai that government-run buses were on the road. However, autos affiliated to Left unions kept off the road even as a large number of commercial establishments and shops downed their shutters to join the protest.
Schools and educational institutions remained open today and it was business as usual with government departments.
The strike had little impact on airport operations as morning flights, both international and domestic numbering around 51 (till 10 am), departed and arrived on time.
A majority of the 3000-odd vegetable shops at the Koyambedu wholesale market remained closed, a representative of the vendors' association said.
In Puducherry the bandh was near total in the Union Territory.
While private buses and autos went off the roads, government-run buses operated under convoy system. All shops and business establishments remained closed.
Government schools functioned with less attendance of students and private schools remained closed. Attendance in
government offices was normal, official sources said. PTI
9.45 am: BJP to march to PM's residence and court arrest
CNN IBN reports that BJP leaders plan to lead a protest march to the Prime Minister's residence in Delhi and will court arrest.
According to ANI, the Metro is still functioning and there are few modes of public transport available in the city. Whatever shops were open this morning were ordered shut by BJP activists.
9.30 am: Bangalore largely shut due to bandh, no violence reported
According to reports, while most shops are shut due to the bandh today, there is sparse traffic on the road and no reports of violence in the city of Bangalore.
In Mumbai there are some areas where shops have been shut, CNN IBN reported, but largely the city is functioning normally with road and rail traffic unaffected by the agitation.
And an update on the violence in Kolkata, there's a unique manner in how the BJP workers are attempting to disrupt the railways says ANI. Curious stuff this:
9.13 am: BJP and TMC workers clash in Kolkata
In Kolkata, BJP and TMC workers have clashed in Howrah, as two public rallies came head to head with one another. The BJP was conducting a rally in support of the bandh, while the TMC was demonstrating against it.
Mamata Banerjee may have pulled out of the UPA alliance because the government refused to roll back its plans to introduce FDI in multi-brand retailing, increase diesel prices and impose a cap on subsidized gas cylinders. However in a news conference on Wednesday she made it abundantly clear that she would not support a strike.
"I do not believe in the politics of strike, they inconvenience the common man", she said.
There is heavy police presence across Kolkata, and public transport is running under heavy security.
9.08 am:Delhi markets to remain closed
In Delhi, the usually busy markets of Sarojini Nagar, and Connaught Place will remain shut in support of the bandh. However reports coming in from the city say that public transport is functioning as usual. The Left parties are expected to hold demonstrations in several areas of the city including near ITO.
8.45 am:Workers block trains in three states
Workers belonging to BJP Yuva Morcha blocked three trains at Patna railway station and in Darbhanga, CPI(ML) workers stopped the Ganga Sagar Express. In Allahabad, Samajwadi Party workers staged demonstrations on rail tracks. There are also reports of trains being stopped in Bhubaneswar in Odisha.
Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra is likely to be unaffected by the bandh call due to Ganesh Chaturthi festivities. Both the MNS and the Shiv Sena and even the BJP have said that they will not enforce the nationwide strike in the state because of the ongoing festival.
The opposition parties are holding a nationwide strike today demanding a rollback of the government's decision to hike diesel prices, cap subsidised cooking gas cylinders and allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail.
The government last week hiked diesel prices by Rs.5 per litre, decided to cap subsidised cooking gas cylinders at six per household per year and allowed 51 percent foreign equity in multi-brand retail.
Workers of the Samajwadi Party, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the Communist Party of India, the Telugu Desam Party, the Biju Janata Dal, the Janata Dal-Secular, the All India Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party have plans to organise picketing, demonstrations and court arrest.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Front will also hold a 'bharat bandh'. "It will be a grand success," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told reporters.
The government's decision on economic reforms has divided the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.
While UPA ally Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee Tuesday announced a decision to pull out of the government, another coalition partner DMK would join the protests against the centre's economic measures.
According to the CPI-M release: "The Manmohan Singh government had announced the FDI in retail trade, sharply increased the price of diesel, limited the supply of cooking gas cylinders and initiated disinvestment in some of the top public sector enterprises. These policies and measures are totally against the interests of the people of the country."
"None of these measures have the support of the parties across the political spectrum. It is clear now with the stand taken by the allies of the Congress in the UPA that a majority of the members of parliament are against these policies," said the party.
The SP supports the UPA from outside but is opposed to FDI in multi-brand retail. "We will protest all over Uttar Pradesh," Samajwadi Party leader Mohan Singh told IANS. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) also called for a "Bharat Trade Bandh" to coincide with an opposition-sponsored all-India strike. The day will be marked by demonstrations and street protests. More than 25,000 trade associations will observe a shutdown, CAIT said.
In Delhi, a CAIT protest at Jantar Mantar will be attended by opposition leaders including Janata Dal-United chief Sharad Yadav, BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat and CPI leader A.B. Bardhan.
Some private schools in the national capital advised parents not to send their wards Thursday keeping in mind the strike.
Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said adequate force will be deployed across the city to avoid any untoward incident.
With inputs from Agencies