New Delhi: The nationwide bandh called by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Left parties against the recent hike in petrol prices crippled normal life in the BJP-ruled states, while it failed to make any impact in those ruled by Congress and its allies.
With many regional parties and auto tax unions also supporting today’s agitation, normal life was thrown completely out of gear as major shops, commercial establishment remained closed and the movement of trains and commercial vehicles was disrupted in various states due to stone pelting and demonstrations spelling trouble for the common man.
As the Bharat Bandh came into effect, the main opposition BJP, Left and other regional parties led major agitation across the country to protest what is the steepest ever hike in petrol prices in recent times. Today’s agitation evoked sharp response in NDA strongholds like Bihar, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
Delhi: National capital was severely affected with today’s agitation. As part of the agitation, several BJP leaders were detained for leading the agitation in various parts of Delhi. BJP workers blocked traffic and staged demonstrations at several places. The National Highway (NH-24) was blocked completely and Delhi-Rohtak rail route was choked by BJP workers. Senior BJP leader Sanjay Joshi steered the protest near the Akshardham temple in Delhi in the morning. BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi courted arrest in Delhi, while leading the agitation near Akshardham Temple.
The BJP, which recently took control of three municipal corporations in Delhi, also protested against the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) by the Congress government.
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had announced to levy a 5% VAT on CNG further escalating the price of the fuel from Rs. 35.45 per kg to 37.20 per kg. This had evoked sharp response from the auto-rickshaw unions, which halted work today defying Delhi government’s warning.
At least 55,000 autos and 15,000 taxis remained off the road in Delhi.
Uttar Pradesh: Coinciding with the Bharat Bandh, the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) today observed a statewide bandh in protest against the petrol price hike. In Allahabad, SP workers staged protests on railway tracks, blocking trains and raising slogans against the Centre.
Samajwadi Party and JD (U) workers blocked rail routes in Allahabad and Patna. The Saket Express and Ganga Gomti Express were stopped in Allahabad. The SP workers have also burnt effigies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, demanding a rollback in the price of petrol.
Himachal Pradesh: Shops and commercial establishments remained closed across the state as activists of the ruling BJP and the CPI-M protested the hike in petrol prices. However, there was no report of traffic being held up due to the shutdown in the state. Over 6,000 shopkeepers in Shimla kept their shops closed.
Maharashtra: The Opposition-sponsored shutdown was largely peaceful in Mumbai and the rest of the state, barring sporadic incidents of violence in Thane and Pune.
There were at least four incidents of government buses being stoned in Pune and Thane as the BJP, Shiv Sena, Left, Samajwadi Party and others observed a nation-wide shutdown.
Though shops and other establishments remained closed, the supply of essential commodities was not affected by the agitation.
The Congress government stationed at least 48,000 cops in various parts of Mumbai with major deployment in sensitive areas like Chembur, Dadar, Jogeshwari, Govandi and Byculla.
The state government also issued preventive detention orders to ensure peace during the day-long agitation. The taxi and autorickshaw unions had earlier declared that they will not participate in today’s bandh, but most drivers did not venture out on the roads, fearing violence and damage to vehicles.
The city's famous dabbawalas, too, joined and did not delivered tiffins. Meanwhile, anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare also asked his supporters to support the agitation.
West Bengal: The supporters of the 12-hour bandh called by the NDA to protest the petrol price hike today blocked some roads in some districts of West Bengal and squatted on railway tracks.
Bandh supporters blocked the Howrah Bridge, which connects the metropolis to the Howrah district. They also blocked roads at Chapadali more in Barasat, in Bankura district, Budge Budge and some other places.
They also damaged some buses in some places. However, buses, cars, taxis, trams plied in the metropolis though in less number. There was no report of any violence in the city. There was no cancellation of flights either. According to South Eastern Railways, all long distance trains reached Howrah station on time. Metro rail operations were held as usual.
The state government had made elaborate security arrangement for the bandh. The state government had also issued circular warning government employees against any leave on the bandh day.
Bihar: NDA Convener and JD-U national president Sharad Yadav and BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain were among 800 activists taken into custody as they tried to enforce the NDA sponsored "Bharat Bandh" in Bihar.
Yadav along with 700 odd supporters took out processions in Saharsa town to enforce the call. However, he along with NDA supporters were soon taken into custody in Sadar Police Station, reports said. Meanwhile, Hussain, the BJP National Spokesman, and others were detained in Bhagalpur town while trying to enforce the bandh. The ruling JD-U party claimed that the bandh was hugely successful.
Karnataka: Today’s bandh disrupted normal life in parts of BJP-ruled Karnataka where bandh supporters set on fire three buses and stoned about a dozen others forcing authorities to withdraw bus services in the city.
The bandh evoked good response in several districts. Public transport was hit and shops and business establishments remained closed in several parts of the state. Holiday was declared for schools and colleges today in view of the bandh.
In stray incidents of violence targeting state-run buses, some persons torched three Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses in the small hours and stoned about a dozen forcing the authorities to withdraw bus services.
While a bus was set on fire on Roopena Agrahara, two others were torched in KR Puram and fire brigade rushed to the spot to extinguish the fire. In the wake of stray incidents of stone pelting, BMTC suspended city bus services till this evening.
As a precaution, Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) also suspended services in some districts such as Kolar, Ramangara, Chikkaballapur, Hubli-Dharwad and Hassan.
Tamil Nadu: In Tamil Nadu, the demonstrators set four public transport buses on fire.
Odisha: The movement of trains and commercial vehicles was hit in several parts of Odisha as the shutdown against the hike in petrol prices, called by various parties, including the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), came into effect.
Protesters blocked roads and highways in several areas and disrupted traffic. Train services were also hit as protesters squatted on rail tracks at the Cuttack and Bhubaneswar railway stations. The state units of the BJP and Left parties organised separate protests across the state.
The NDA and the Left called for a nationwide bandh after the government raised petrol prices by Rs 7.50 per litre. The last Bharat Bandh that was called by the Opposition on July 5, 2010 had cost the economy Rs 13,000 crore.
The decision to this effect was announced by the NDA's acting chairman and senior BJP leader, LK Advani, at the party's national executive meet in Mumbai on May 24.
First Published: Thursday, May 31, 2012, 08:35