Bandh to protest diesel price hike, FDI evokes mixed response
New Delhi: A bandh called by BJP, Left parties and UPA's outside supporter SP to protest diesel price hike and FDI in multi-brand retail on Thursday evoked mixed response with life being disrupted in some states and their top leaders courting arrest.
Protesters blocked trains and road traffic in many areas in Bihar, West Bengal, UP and other places and staged demonstrations. However, no major untoward incident was reported from anywhere.
While in Delhi most of the markets remained closed and traffic was disrupted at some places, the bandh evoked little response in the country's commercial hub Mumbai owing to Ganesh festivities across Maharashtra. Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have kept away from the day-long bandh due to the festival.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Left leaders Prakash Karat and A B Bardhan courted arrest here after holding a joint demonstration at Jantar Mantar. The leaders of SP, four Left parties, JD(S), TDP and BJD marched to Parliament Street Police Station along with supporters and courted arrest.
Besides Yadav, Karat (CPI-M) and Bardhan (CPI), other prominent leaders who courted arrested included Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), Chandrababu Naidu (TDP) and H D Deve Gowda (JD-S). BJPs leader M Venkaiah Naidu and Shahnawaz Hussain were taken into preventive custody in Hyderabad.
At Jantar Mantar, Yechury and Bardhan shared the dais with BJP's Nitin Gadkari and Murli Manohar Joshi.
Normal life was disrupted in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh but evoked partial response in other states.
Shops in some areas in Delhi like Bhogal, Laxmi Nagar, Defence Colony and South Extension were open in the morning hours but big markets like Khan Market, Connaught Place, Greater Kailash, Karol Bagh, Chandni Chowk and Kashmere Gate were shut.
Auto rickshaws plied in the city and buses of state-run Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) were on the roads in large numbers. At New Delhi railway station, auto drivers staged a protests and refused to carry passengers.
However, most of the private schools in the capital remained closed.
A senior Delhi Police official said a large number of personnel were deployed. "We ensured police presence at every major road," he said.
SP and BJP workers staged demonstrations and stopped trains at a number of places in Uttar Pradesh. Protestors stopped trains in Mathura, Agra, Varanasi, Allahabad and Lucknow while BJP workers and traders blocked the Agra-Gwalior Highway by burning tyres.
Major markets remained closed at a number of places in UP, including in the state capital, official sources said in Lucknow.
Raising slogans against FDI in retail, a group of SP workers held a demonstration outside the Walmart store at Sultanpur in Lucknow. The party also protested outside Divisional Railway Manager's office in Hazratganj.
Courting arrest along with leaders from Left and other parties, the SP chief gave a veiled threat to UPA, saying his party will not "tolerate" anti-people decisions like hike in diesel prices and kept open the option of forming a Third Front.
Observing that the SP was supporting the government only to keep "communal forces" at bay, Yadav, whose party has 22 MPs in Lok Sabha, said in Delhi if the UPA government does not roll back its recent decisions immediately as per their demands, "we will announce together a strategy to hold a big agitation."
Criticising the bandh call, the government blamed the parties behind the protest for causing economic losses and made it clear that there will be no backtracking on the reforms as the country needs "massive" growth.
Senior central ministers maintained that there was no threat to the stability of the government even if Trinamool Congress withdrew support tomorrow and hinted at scouting for new allies.
"We had enough friends yesterday, we have enough friends today. So, I don't think why you should doubt our stability," Finance Minister P Chidambaram told reporters here.
Though normal life was disrupted in West Bengal due to the bandh called by CPI(M)-led Left Front and BJP, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed that the situation was "normal". "I saw that the situation was normal as I was coming to Writers' Buildings," Banerjee told reporters in Kolkata.
Airport sources said the flight operations were normal in Kolkata airport, except cancellation of two Indigo flights - Kolkata-New Delhi and Kolkata-Agartala, which were scheduled to fly in the morning.