The Congress party launched its ‘Bharat Bandh’ protest on Monday across the nation, protesting against the ‘fuel loot’ of increasing petrol and diesel prices. Congress President Rahul Gandhi also returned from his Kailash Mansarovar Yatra to lead the protest from Delhi.
The Congress claims that at least 21 Opposition parties are supporting the Bandh, including former PM HD Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular), Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM(S), Samajwadi Party, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Communist Party of India (Marxist), M K Stalin’s DMK and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) among others.
The Congress has demanded immediate reduction in central excise duty and excessive VAT and reiterated its earlier demands that petrol and diesel be brought under the purview of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is expected to reduce the price of the fuels. Earlier, the government had rejected the demand of bringing fuel under GST, claiming that most states were opposed to it.
Congress leader Ashok Gehlot while announcing the call for bandh last week had said, “The mismanagement of economy has led to high prices. When fuel prices were rising during the UPA regime, taxes were reduced to take the burden off the people. But due to the mismanagement by the current government, the prices of petrol, diesel and gas cylinders have gone up steeply.”
Even as the Bharat Bandh protests began on Monday, petrol and diesel prices also rose, with price of petrol in Delhi standing at Rs 80.73/litre (increase by Rs 0.23/litre) and diesel at Rs 72.83/litre (increase by Rs 0.22/litre), while in Mumbai petrol price reached Rs 88.12/litre (increase by Rs 0.23/litre) and diesel at Rs 77.32/litre (increase by Rs 0.23/litre).
In Odisha, all schools have been directed to remain closed and the government has directed district collectors to take preventive measures to maintain law and order. In Karnataka, the ruling JD(S) and Congress coalition has extended support to the bandh, as have several organisations such as Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, KSRTC, BMTC, Ola and Uber Drivers and Owners Association, Private Taxi Owners Association, Tours and Travels Taxi Association, Auto Drivers’ Association.
The Madhya Pradesh Congress unit, Telangana Congress, Odisha Congress, RJD in Bihar, MNS in Maharashtra, CPI and CPM in Andhra Pradesh, and Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu, including the DMK are also taking part in the bandh called by the Congress.
Meanwhile, West Bengal, Kerala and Goa have stated that they won’t be participating in the bandh.