New Delhi: As they organised a coordinated
strike against rising prices of essential commodities, NDA and
Left parties on Monday slammed the government for the situation
and particularly targeted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,
asking him to quit if he was unable to deal with it.
BJP and its allies JD(U), Shiromani Akali Dal and Shiv
Sena took to the streets to protest the continuing rise in
prices of foodgrains and fuel across the country and its top
leaders courted arrest at various places.
Left parties and Samajwadi Party held coordinated
protests in the states having their strongholds and their
leaders too courted arrest.
Leaders of NDA and the Left said the protest was beyond
party affiliations and will continue in Parliament in the
Monsoon Session beginning July 26.
"UPA-II has left the people at the mercy of market forces
and the Monsoon. While market forces are deciding the prices
of essential commodities, the Prime Minister is hoping that
Monsoon would be good and it will bring down foodgrain
prices," JD(U) chief and NDA convener Sharad Yadav said.
"The Prime Minister should either bring down prices or
leave his chair," he told reporters.
Contending that it was for the first time in India`s
history that all political parties outside government came
together against the ruling dispensation, Yadav said hailed
opposition unity as "people`s wish".
Yadav said he was aware that stopping buses and trains
would not bring down prices but added that protests would have
to be organised as "sitting at home" would not help.
BJP President Nitin Gadkari said the issue of price rise
was not limited to any one political party as 50 per cent of
the country`s population was living below poverty line and
earning less than Rs 20 per day.
He wondered why Prime Minister Singh and UPA chief Sonia
Gandhi were silent on the issue of price rise.
He also took a swipe at Congress General Secretary Rahul
Gandhi, wondering whether he could not "see poverty" when he
"visits the houses of the poor and eats with them" and asked
"Why does the Rajkumar (Rahul Gandhi) not speak about this?"
Seeking to unite the whole opposition on the issue,
Gadkari said he did not believe in "political untouchability"
and was willing to visit the office of any political party to
discuss price rise.
Gadkari said he was not happy about calling strikes but
it had become necessary to draw the attention of the
government towards the plight of the people.
Joining the attack on the government, CPI leader D Raja
said, "Government should take note of this massive agitation
all over the country" and consider rollback in increase of
prices of diesel, kerosene, petrol and LPG.
Justifying coordination of Left`s strike with that of
BJP-led NDA, CPI(M) Politburo member Brinda Karat said price
rise was not "political party issue" but concerns all sections
of the society.
Pure sensationalism: Congress
Congress party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that people were asking if the shutdown was in their interest or against it.
"Does it (bandh) do anything constructive, solve any problem. Has the opposition offered any constructive suggestions?" Singhvi asked.
"It was indulgence in pure sensationalism," he said, adding that the Supreme Court had declared bandhs unconstitutional in a 1998 judgement, holding that fundamental rights of people as a whole cannot be subservient to the fundamental rights of a section of people.
He said that a state-sponsored shutdown was even more unconstitutional.
The strike call was "an anti-public interest activity masquerading as a public interest measure".
Singhvi said the huge subsidy given to meet under-recoveries of oil companies was paid by the government. "They (the opposition) are not applying their mind. They are trying to create sensationalism."
Singhvi said that kerosene saw a four-fold increase during the National Democratic Alliance government while petrol prices were increased 25 times.
"The increase (by the UPA government) is minimalist, most reasonable and softens the impact of under-recoveries," he said.