Bharat Bandh: Congress calls strike 'people's movement'; BJP claims stir didn't get backing of common man

The Congress-led Bharat Bandh on Monday to protest the rising fuel prices across the country received support from several Opposition parties: the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), the Samajwadi Party.

As protests were held in different parts of the country, Congress claimed that 21 Opposition parties supported their strike call, and declared the bandh a "success". However, the BJP claimed that the strike did not manage to get the common man's support. The MNS and Shiv Sena also had a back and forth over the strike after the Raj Thackeray-led outfit slammed the Uddhav Thackeray-led party for not joining the protests.

Here are the key reactions to the bandh:

Congress should stop this dance of violence: BJP

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad acknowledged that the people were facing "momentary difficulty" due to increasing petrol and diesel prices and said they understand that this was due to factors beyond the control of the central government.

Noting that oil prices initially went down after the BJP government came to power in May 2014, Prasad said it is a problem whose solution is not in the hands of the government. "We standing with people in their problem. We are trying to redress the issue and will do that," he told a press conference.

 Bharat Bandh: Congress calls strike peoples movement; BJP claims stir didnt get backing of common man

Congress workers stop a trains during the Bharat Bandh called over fuel price hike, at Cuttack Railway Station. PTI

Prasad claimed that the people understood the government's point of view and refused to support the Bharat Bandh call. "That is unnerving the Congress and other Opposition parties. Their resort to violence is designed to overawe the people of India. An atmosphere of fear is being created," he said.

Citing the death of a two-year old girl in Bihar as she could not get medical help in time due to pro-bandh protesters allegedly stopping an ambulance, he asked if Congress president Rahul Gandhi would take responsibility.

Hitting out at the Congress and other Opposition parties, Prasad said they should stop this "dance of violence and game of death".

BJP chief whip in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Raj Purohit termed the bandh a "dud". "Common people as well as businessmen rejected the Congress' call for the bandh as a result of which the bandh failed to make any impact. It ended up as dud," said the MLA.

Later, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said that the strike was called by the Congress to divert the people's attention from the hearing in the Delhi High Court on a matter related to the National Herald case.  "The people whose conscience was locked somewhere, those who were thick involved in corruption, the same people had deliberately called for the Bharat Bandh because they knew the National Herald case was on and the verdict was expected today (Monday)," Patra told reporters.

Bharat Bandh a success, says Congress

Congress general secretary Ashok Gehlot said that the Bharat Bandh called by the party was a success.

Congress communications in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said that the bandh received support from "every corner of the nation and turned into a people's movement." "Until Modi government brings fuel prices under GST or reduce VAT, Congress will continue this people's movement," he said.

He also accused the BJP-led NDA government of "lying" about the reason behind high fuel prices.

Shiv Sena denies BJP role in decision to stay away

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut dismissed talks of senior BJP leaders asking his party to stay away from the nationwide bandh called by the Congress to protest the rising prices of fuel. "No BJP leader has asked the Shiv Sena to stay away from the bandh. It's our own decision," he said. Sena is a partner in the BJP-led governments at Centre and Maharashtra. Earlier, Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan had said his party was expecting the Sena to support the shutdown against the price hike. However, Raut had said the Sena was looking at the bandh neutrally.

Raj Thackeray hits out at Shiv Sena

Claiming that the Shiv Sena had "no role left to play", MNS chief Raj Thackeray said that the party has only been writing editorials on rising fuel prices, in their mouthpiece Saamana. "They don't know what they're supposed to do. No need to give them importance," he said. He also lashed out at the Sena over its statements on stepping out of the alliance with BJP.

'In-principle' participation, says AAP

Delhi's ruling Aam Aadmi Party joined the Bharat Bandh, but said its "in-principle" participation in the protest against Modi government's "anti-people" policies should not been seen as support to the Congress.

Senior AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh participated in the Congress protest at Rajghat. Other party leaders, including Atishi Marlena, attended the protest at Jantar Mantar.

Singh said AAP believes all political parties should unite on issues of national interest.

The AAP said in a statement that all Opposition parties must unite and force the Modi government to reverse its "anti-people policies which are solely responsible" for price rise, particularly the unprecedented rise in prices of petrol and diesel.

"However, the Congress cannot be the umbrella under which all Opposition parties are comfortable. Congress has to shun its big brother and unreasonable attitude towards other parties," it said.

'Congress-led bandh is disingenous'

Speaking to reporters outside the Chennai airport on Monday morning, Lok Sabha deputy speaker and AIADMK MP Thambidurai M said that bandhs by the Opposition are common, but Congress leading this particular bandh is disingenuous. It was under Congress rule in the Centre that the authority to regulate oil prices in the country was handed over to private companies, he said. "This has hurt the public while profiting private players. The current government at the Centre is only following previously set down plans."

He said that the AIADMK condemned the price rise, but the party will not support the bandh alongside the likes of DMK, which is "two-faced". "They want to keep the Congress on their side, but also want to work with the BJP," he said.

Farooq Abdullah supports bandh

Speaking to ANI, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah said that the BJP had criticised the fuel prices back in 2012, when Congress-led UPA was in power. "If you listen to the 2012 speeches of those in power today, they (BJP) were shouting about petrol and diesel prices. Today, the prices are surpassing prices of that time; rupee has weakened against dollar. We are in trouble," he said.'

'Fuel price hike a result of mismanagement of economy'

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the daily increase in fuel prices and the unprecedented devaluation of the rupee was a result of the "mismanagement of the economy" by the BJP-led central government.  But, she added, the 'Bharat Bandh' could not be the "first and the last options" of a protest.

The worsening of the country's economy had started with demonetisation in 2016 and then the implementation of the GST, Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat. "This (daily fuel price hike and devaluation of the rupee) is a disaster and mismanagement of the country's economy. The price of rupee is falling every day. Prices of petroleum products are increasing every day. There is no value of life of common people. We are unable to understand where it will reach," she said.

'Congress' Bharat Bandh a drama'

Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje said the Congress was engaging in a "drama", stressing that her government has reduced VAT on petrol and diesel to give relief to people. The BJP government in Rajasthan, which is to go to polls later in 2018, reduced value-added tax on diesel and petrol on Sunday.

Addressing a public meeting in Hanumangarh district's Bhadra town, Raje said she understands that the increase in fuel prices affect people's budget and hence the state government decided to reduce the VAT. "Today a drama is going on in the country but there is no impact in Rajasthan. We have taken decision in public interest," she added.

'Public doesn't understand'

Rajasthan minister Rajkumar Rinwa courted controversy by blaming citizens for the fuel price rise. "The government is trying. Fuel prices in India are driven by the prices of crude oil in the world market. There is so much expenditure, floods all over, and consumption. The public doesn't understand that if the prices of crude oil increases, they should reduce their expenses," he said.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Sep 10, 2018 22:16:26 IST

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