The proposed changes in duties related to petroleum products in the Budget stirred a hornet's nest on Friday with the entire Opposition staging a walkout from the Lok Sabha and warning that they will not allow Parliament to run till a rollback is announced.
"This is a move that would lead to rise in prices of diesel and petrol and hit the common man already burdened by price rise," leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said immediately after the walkout.
The issue united the entire Opposition with Swaraj as also Left leaders like Gurudas Dasgupta, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad addressing an impromptu joint press conference outside Parliament House.
"The entire opposition is together," Prasad thundered attacking the government and accusing it of acting in a 'dictatorial manner' against the interests of the common people. He said Parliament would not be allowed to function till a rollback is effected.
Raising anti-government slogans, they chanted 'Jo Sarkar Nikammi Hai, Woh Sarkar Badalni Hai' (we have to change the inefficient government).
"We have boycotted the Budget. Soon after a discussion on price rise, the government has increased the prices of petroleum products. This is anti-people," Swaraj said.
Any increase in prices of petroleum product will be an 'indirect tax' and have a cascading effect on the prices of all commodities, she added.
National Democratic Alliance convenor and Janata Dal-United president Sharad Yadav launched a frontal attack against the government questioning the very sanctity of the debate on price rise as the government has effectively increased the prices of petroleum products.
"This is not a budget for the common people. This will only lead to more trouble for them as they are reeling under price rise," Yadav said. Gurudas Dasgupta of the Communist Party of India joined hands with the entire Opposition in slamming the Budget, terming it 'anti-people'.
He said the budget proposals will lead to street protests.
RJD, an ally of the United Progressive Alliance in its last term, accused the Congress of adopting a dictatorial approach.
"When the entire country is suffering on account of price rise, they have increased the prices of petroleum products, fertilisers and cement. We appeal to the people to come out and join a movement against the government," RJD chief Prasad said.
He said the country has seen both dada (Pranab Mukherjee) and didi (Mamta Banerjee) and both were concerned only about West Bengal. SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav said the finance minister assured Parliament on Thursday that prices would come down and now the government is increasing the prices.
"This matter is above party politics. The farmers and workers of the country are suffering," he said.
Mulayam Singh Yadav also criticised the government for using the name of Mahatma Gandhi for the National Rural Employment Generation Act scheme.
"It (NREGA) is a den of corruption. Gandhiji fought for farmers and workers. His name has been unfairly used in this," Yadav said.
He said the people of the country will be on the streets soon and urged them to support the Opposition like they did 'during the Emergency'.
Terming the walkout by the entire Opposition as 'unprecedented', the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Basudeb Acharia said, "We have to take this step as the decision (petro price hike) would have a cascading effect on the prices of essential commodities."
"We will continue the agitation unless the government withdraws the proposal, Acharia said, adding, "It would affect common man adversely. Farmers, workers and the poor would be the worst-hit and we cannot be a mute spectator."
Terming the Budget as 'directionless, aimless and anti-people', Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi said it will only add to the rise in prices.
"People had expected the exemption limit in income tax to be raised up to Rs 2,50,000 per annum. But that did not happen. The allocation for social sector has not increased much keeping in view the inflation.The budget is anti-farmer," he told reporters.
Biju Janata Dal leader B J Panda said the walkout was not pre-planned.
"It was rather spontaneous. Yesterday, the government was discussing steps to tackle price rise and today they are proposing to increase petrol and diesel prices which will inflate the prices further."
RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said, "this is a fraud on the people and government should withdraw the proposal".
Image: Sushma Swaraj