'Bharat Bandh' against steep fuel prices: States gear up to tackle impact

Congress has appealed party workers to maintain peace and not to associate with any violent protests adding that 21 opposition parties are supporting the bandh.

'Bharat Bandh' against steep fuel prices: States gear up to tackle impact

New Delhi: Ahead of the 'Bharat Bandh' on Monday called by the Congress and the Left separately in protest against the rising fuel (petrol and diesel) prices and depreciation of the rupee in the country, the states took its own path and geared up to tackle the nationwide shutdown. Congress has appealed party workers to maintain peace and not to associate with any violent protests. It said 21 opposition parties are supporting the bandh, besides a number of chambers of commerce and traders' associations.

The party demanded that petrol and diesel should be brought under GST, by which oil prices could drop by about Rs 15 to Rs 18.

Most of the opposition parties announced their support. Parties like the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), DMK, Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS) backed the shutdown, the Left has also declared a nationwide hartal. The Biju Janata Dal (BJD), a non-NDA party, said although it is against the fuel price hike, it will not support the Bandh. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) took a similar stand in Delhi. 

Here is how the different states are gearing up for the strike:

West Bengal: In West Bengal, the state government courted controversy when it contradicted its own statement. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) said that it backed the issues that led to the call for the shutdown but ruled out its participation. The state government had issued a circular asking its employees not to abstain from duty on Monday.

Speaking on the issue, State Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, "While they want to ensure the Congress-sponsored Bharat Bandh does not meet with success in West Bengal, they are organising protests against fuel prices hike on that date since they have to publicly protest against the draconian policies of the BJP government at Centre."

Along with the TMC, the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), a constituent of the Left Front too decided to stay away accusing major partner CPI(M)'s central leadership of not consulting it before taking the call. The WBPCC chief appealed to the people of West Bengal to make the six-hour (from 9 am to 3 pm) shutdown called by the party successful and register their protests. The Congress' state unit President said his party will not follow any disruptive politics on the day of the bandh and will take out small rallies in different areas.

Maharashtra: In this western state, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), led by Raj Thackeray, has extended its support but the Shiv Sena spurned Congress' request to participate in the bandh.

MNS chief Thackeray said that the common man is in anguish as the prices of petrol and diesel have skyrocketed. “The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena extends its full support to the bandh and will actively participate in it,” said Thackeray. Thackeray further said that though the fuel prices are linked to the global markets, the central and state governments have imposed heavy taxes on this. "I am appealing to all the citizens of Maharashtra, to put aside their political and ideological differences and support this bandh. In the same spirit, I appeal to my Maharashtra sainiks, in its full force, to be a part of this bandh as well,” said Thackeray.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said Sena won't participate in the bandh. "The opposition should show their unity. The Sena is looking at the bandh neutrally," he said.

Delhi: The capital's ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made it clear that it will not join the strike. AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said, "Although the issue is right, the Congress has no moral authority over the issue of fuel price rise and record fall of the rupee. It is little difficult to digest that the Congress is calling for a Bharat Bandh."

Odisha: The ruling Biju Janata Dal in Odisha said it is neither opposing nor supporting the 'Bharat Bandh'. BJD spokesman Samir Ranjan Das said, "We are not supporting nor opposing the Bharat Bandh." He, however, said the state government has already announced holiday of schools on Monday keeping in view the safety of children.

School and Mass Education Department Secretary P K Mohapatra, in a letter to district collectors, had said that all schools, both government and private, should remain shut on Monday. The state government had also directed all district collectors to take preventive measures to maintain law and order and ensure maintenance of essential services in the districts during the planned strike.

The Congress Sunday requested the ruling BJD to suspend proceedings of the state Assembly till 3 pm in view of the strike. Odisha Congress president Niranjan Patnaik called upon the BJD to suspend the proceeding of the Odisha Assembly till 3 pm if it "sincerely oppose" the price hike of petrol, diesel and cooking gas.

Meanwhile, all the Left parties comprising CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML), Forward Block, SUCI and others have announced to organise a "hartal" on Monday which coincides with the 'Bharat Bandh' called by the Congress.

Karnataka: Normal life is likely to be affected in JDS-Congress-ruled Karnataka as JDS has extended its support to the bandh. The state government declared a public holiday for schools and colleges in Bengaluru as a precautionary measure.

Functioning of the public transport system, cinema theatres, multiplexes among others is expected to be hit in the state during the bandh with the ruling Congress claiming the support of various trade unions. "The Congress party has called for a bandh Monday. Several other political parties and trade unions also are supporting our bandh call. Public transport systems also have extended support to our protest," Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President Dinesh Gundu Rao told reporters.

The objective to observe bandh was not to trouble people, but to fight for their cause as "they are living in the most trying times," Rao said. Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation staff and workers' federation have extended their support to the bandh. The Federation of Karnataka State Lorry Owners and Agents Association, however, is only giving moral support.

A host of organisations such as Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, BMTC, Ola and Uber Drivers and Owners Association, Private Taxi Owners Association, Tours and Travels Taxi Association, Auto Drivers' Association.

Tamil Nadu: The Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) extended its support. Apart from MDMK, other opposition parties including Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has extended support to the nationwide shutdown. Conveying his party's "whole-hearted support," party president M K Stalin said the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) would "enthusiastically take part and cooperate to make the shutdown a complete success". The DMK chief urged all sections of people, including government employees, teachers, traders and state transport corporation workers, to voluntarily support the bandh to "teach the BJP government a fitting lesson".

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana: The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) ruling in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana respectively, are not supporting the strike.

Bihar: The opposition leaders from Congress, RJD, HAM(S), Samajwadi Party, NCP held a joint press conference at Sadaquat Ashram here and appealed to the various trade and industry bodies to make the bandh a grand success. Prominent leaders said that medicine shops, medical services, ambulances and school buses will be kept out of the bandh.

In reply to a query whether or not Bihar Congress acting president Kaukab Qadri would appeal to JD(U), which seemed annoyed with the BJP on fuel price issue, to come along with opposition parties, Qadri said that "Why would I appeal to JD(U) as they are very much part of the ruling alliance. I would ask them (JDU) to exert pressure to cut excise duty to give relief to common men."

RJD Bihar unit chief Ram Chandra Purbey said that the party has already asked its workers and leaders right from block to district levels to participate in the bandh to make it a grand success. Senior Bihar Congress leader and MLC Prem Chandra Mishra said he would appeal to people not to send their children to school as a precautionary measure. The bandh will be observed between 9 am to 3 pm during which leaders and workers from opposition parties would hit the streets requesting people to cooperate and support the bandh.

Madhya Pradesh: In the state, an association of fuel pump owners has said that their establishments would remain open.

Jharkhand: A senior police officer said adequate security measures have been taken by East Singhbhum District Police to maintain law and order during Monday's 'bandh'. Senior Superintendent of Police, Anoop Birtharay said stringent action would be taken against people who forcibly try to close shops or damage properties during the bandh. The SSP said adequate security measures have been taken to maintain law and order during the bandh.

In a Whatsapp message, the district police chief has appealed the people to take snaps of bandh supporters indulging in ransacking, rioting or damaging property and forward it to district police WhatsApp number 7091091825 and assured to initiate action against the culprits.

Goa: The Goa unit of the Congress has said it will not take part in the nation-wide Bandh to avoid inconvenience to local people ahead of the Ganesh festival. State Congress spokesperson Vijay Bhike said, "We support the call given by our party at the national level but we won't have a Bandh in Goa as people are busy shopping for the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities," he said. The party will carry out a peaceful awareness campaign at petrol pumps on the issue of price rise, Bhike said.