Will Opposition unite against petrol price hike?

While the NDA has given a Bharat Bandh call for the day, the Left parties have decided to observer an `All India Protest Day` on May 31.

New Delhi: Government is all set to face a united Opposition onslaught on petrol price hike and price spiral as efforts are on to forge a larger political consensus for ‘Bharat Bandh’ on the issue on May 31.

While the NDA has given a Bharat Bandh call for the day, the Left parties have decided to observer an `All India Protest Day` on May 31 that will include strikes, picketing, demonstrations, rasta roko and rallies against the hike.

Sources in the Opposition camp said that efforts are also on in rope in the UPA allies like Trinamool Congress and DMK, who have opposed the fuel price hike yesterday.

JD-U president Sharad Yadav has also talked to Left parties and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav in this regard, while attempt is on to take BJD and AIADMK also on board for the May 31 agitations, the sources said. Samajwadi Party is supporting the UPA government from outside.

A leader from the Opposition speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the attempt is to re-enact a scenario of July 5, 2010 Bharat Bandh, when opposition parties from north and south with conflicting ideologies like that of BJP and Left had coordinated their agitations to unitedly oppose the fuel price hike.

Rejecting government`s argument that the hike in petrol prices has been done by petroleum companies as the pricing of petrol stands deregulated, Yadav said, "This is an eyewash... We (NDA) are going to observe a Bharat bandh on May 31."

In a press statement, the Left parties, CPI-M, CPI, RSP and All India Forward Bloc said that the Left parties strongly condemn the steep increase in the price of petrol.

"This is a savage attack on the people, who are already suffering from the effects of continuous price rise of all essential commodities...In order to build a sustained movement to demand a rollback of price hike, Left parties have decided to observe an All India Protest Day on May 31," it said.

CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat said that steep hike in the petrol price was expected.

"That is why we said yesterday that Government should not increase the prices otherwise we would conduct all India protests. We will continue the protests till we get the government to roll back the prices," Karat told reporters here.

He said that the Left has called for a ‘hartal’ in different states. "We are having different protest actions," Karat said.

Opposing the steep hike in petrol prices and spiralling prices of commodities, the JD(U) president said the government has also been a "total failure" in checking prices of essential commodities.

"Government has washed its hands off the decision on price hike but in reality this happens only when Government wants. The government will also be increasing prices of diesel and LPG after the Presidential elections get over," Yadav said.

He asked why the hike in petrol prices was not announced when Parliament was in session and why oil companies did so the very next day after the Budget session got over.

The NDA convenor said that while all the partners of his alliance have already been consulted on the issue of bandh, efforts will also be to reach out to other parties for the agitation as the matter is not a political one but that concerns common man.

While Congress has so far officially reacted cautiously on the issue saying that it was a decision by the petroleum companies, party leaders speaking on condition of anonymity have expressed discomfiture with the move.

In a sudden development, Oil Minister S Jaipal Reddy today cut short his official visit to Turkmenistan by a day to be in the national capital to field questions on the steepest ever increase in the fuel price a day after state-owned oil companies hiked petrol price by a massive Rs 7.54 a litre.