The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday slammed the Congress-led Opposition parties who are observing Bharat Bandh across the country over the violence that was witnessed in some states during the protests.
“Everyone has a right to protest. We welcome that but will politics in a democracy be played out through violence?” Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a press conference.
Demanding answers from the Congress, he said that petrol stations have been torched and vehicles have been vandalised in the name of Bharat Bandh.
Referring to the incident in Bihar’s Jehanabad where a 2-year-old girl died after an ambulance failed to reach her on time due to road blockade, Prasad berated Congress president Rahul Gandhi for creating an “environment of fear”.
“It’s the essence of democracy that hospitals, ambulances, and medicine shops are allowed to function without any hindrance. But, with the death of 2-year-old in Bihar today, an environment of fear is being created. Rahul Gandhi should answer who is responsible for this,” he said.
According to reports, Pramod Manjhi, the victim’s father, said that the ambulance faced “several obstructions on their way to the town” from their village Belaganj.
“Our autorickshaw was stopped at many places which resulted in delay and led to my daughter’s condition to deteriorate. She died before we reached,” he said.
But Jehanabad Sub-Divisional Officer Paritosh Kumar refuted Manjhi’s claims saying, “The child was seriously ill and her father delayed her hospitalisation.”
Condemning the violence, Prasad said that Bharat Bandh has been a complete failure.
He said that in spite of some “momentary difficulty”, the people don’t support the Bandh.
“Why the people of India are indifferent to Bharat Bandh? They understand the rise in fuel prices, though temporary, is because of factors beyond the control of the Indian government and ordinary Indian,” Prasad said.
“The petroleum need of the global world today is under severe restrictions because of non-availability and limited supply. We are not trying to justify the price hike. The NDA government has been trying its best to contain inflation. It has succeeded on numerous fronts,” he added.
Members of the Congress and some other opposition parties were seen vandalising vehicles, burning tyres, blocking roads and railway tracks in parts of Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha during the nationwide shutdown called to protest the continuous rise in prices of petrol and diesel.
The parties that joined the agitation led by Congress include the CPI(M), Samajwadi Party (SP), Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Maharshtra Navanirman Sena (MNS).
The Trinamool Congress (TMC), though supporting the issue, decided to stay away from the protest. Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi, too, have decided not to support the shutdown call.
Meanwhile, in his first public meeting since returning from Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of dividing the people of the nation and declared that a united opposition will defeat the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Addressing a protest rally at Ramlila grounds in New Delhi, Gandhi also raised questions on the rising fuel prices, the issue of demonetisation, farmer suicides, unemployment and the Rafale jet deal.
Joining the call for a united opposition given by his party chief, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the situation in the country has “gone beyond control” while urging all opposition parties to shed their differences and unite for 2019 elections.
“Circumstances show that the situation has gone beyond control now. Farmers, businessmen, youth are facing crises in their respective fields. The government has failed miserably in fulfilling the promises made to common people. The time has come to change the party in the Centre and this will happen very soon,” he said.