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Bharat Bandh today: Many Opposition parties back Congress call; Trinamool, BJD, AAP stay away

The Congress wants petrol and diesel to be brought under the GST, seeks an immediate reduction in central excise duty and ‘excessive VAT’ in states

SNS | New Delhi |

A number of opposition parties have joined hands to protest against the rise in fuel prices and participate in the ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by the Congress on Monday.

While leaders of the Opposition parties are to sit in a dharna at Rajghat on Monday, protest rallies have started in several states across India.

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, DMK chief M K Stalin and several Left leaders have openly extended their support to the shutdown call. The Trinamool Congress has however decided to stay away from the protest, and so has Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha and Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi.

Supporting the issues on which the shutdown call has been given, the ruling TMC in West Bengal said it was against any kind of strike in the state according to the stated policy of party supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The party will however hold protest rallies across West Bengal against rising fuel prices.

“We support the issues raised by them. But at the same time, we do not want to waste another working day…,” TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee has said.

READ | Modi govt running like a profiteering company: Surjewala

Left Front Chairman Biman Bose called a 12-hour strike from 6 am to 6 pm on Monday across West Bengal in support of the all India “protest hartal” and urged people in the state to make it a grand success.

The parties that are supporting the bandh include Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), DMK, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Maharshtra Navanirman Sena (MNS).

BJD, a non-NDA party, said though it was against the fuel price hike, it would not support the bandh.

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) in Telangana are also not supporting the call.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that the Narendra Modi government had “looted” Rs 11 lakh crore from the people of the country in the last 52 months and was running a “profiteering company” in the name of governance.

He said the way gas, diesel and petrol prices were increasing every day, it had caused great distress to farmers.

“We demand that petrol and diesel be brought under the ambit of the GST. High prices of petrol and diesel found no mention in the BJP’s national executive meeting because they are not bothered about the pain of public,” Surjewala said.

Earlier, Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken said 21 opposition parties, besides a number of chambers of commerce and traders’ associations, were supporting the Bharat bandh.

“DMK will extend complete support to the Bharat Bandh call by the Indian National Congress protesting against the BJP government for steep rise in prices of petrol and diesel. I urge the people and party cadre to make the bandh on September 10 a big success,” Stalin has said.

The Congress has urged party workers not to indulge in any violent protest.

“I appeal to all Congress workers to make the bandh violence-free. We are Mahatma Gandhi’s party and we should not associate ourselves with any violence,” Maken said at a press conference.

Petrol and diesel prices set new records on Sunday. According to the price notification issued by state fuel retailers, petrol price was raised by 12 paise a litre and diesel by 10 paise per litre.

Maken alleged that the BJP government kept on raising excise duty on fuel even when international crude oil prices had come down in the past.

“Between 2014 and now, excise duty on petrol has risen by 211.7 per cent and 433 per cent on diesel. The excise duty on petrol was Rs 9.2 per litre in 2014 and it has gone up to Rs 19.48 per litre. Similarly, the excise duty on diesel was Rs 3.46 per litre and today it stands at Rs 15.33 per litre,” he said.

Maken said he was “pained” to see that BJP’s national executive meeting remained silent on the rising crude oil price issue and did not hold any discussions on inflation or rupee depreciation, matters directly linked with the common man.

“I am pained that the meeting did not discuss a solution to these issues,” he said.

Maken alleged the economic progress and GDP growth rate, which the UPA government maintained, had been squandered by the present dispensation.

“During our rule, Narendra Modi criticised the rising oil prices saying it has gone into ICU. What would they say now?” Maken asked.

Hitting out at the BJP for attacking the Congress with ‘make in India breaking India’ barb, he alleged the government had stalled the ‘make in India’ initiative as 109 Rafale jets could have been manufactured at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, a PSU.

He also said the government had not yielded to the opposition’s demand for a Join Parliamentary Committee probe into the alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal.

The Congress wants petrol and diesel to be brought under the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which would decrease the price “by Rs 15-18 per litre”. It also wants an immediate reduction in central excise duty and “excessive VAT” in states.

Karnataka’s ruling JD-S announced it would support the day-long nationwide protest.

“Our party has decided to support the Congress call in protest against the steep hike in fuel prices and other anti-people policies of the NDA-led government,” a JD-S official told IANS in Bengaluru.

Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda will join other opposition leaders at a protest rally in New Delhi.

Meanwhile, state governments across the country reviewing the security measures in view of the bandh, with many states deciding to keep schools shut on Monday.

The BJP’s Tripura government has ordered all its employees to attend office on Monday and warned that strict action would be taken against those absent.

In Odisha, BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra said, “We have been holding protests across the state for the last three days to make the people aware of the steep price rise of the petroleum products.”

The Odisha government has declared that schools would remain closed on Monday to ensure the safety of the students.

Pledging support to the Bandh, DMK leader MK Stalin said the Modi government was not doing anything to halt the rupee’s slide against dollar or to control the fuel prices, which appeared to be marching towards Rs 100 per litre.

(With agency inputs)