The BJP has threatened a nationwide stir, along with other parties, against the hike in fuel prices.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is oblivious of the pain and suffering of the people reeling under inflation, the Bharatiya Janata Party claimed on Tuesday after the prime minister had ruled out the rollback of the fuel price hike effected by the finance minister.
Accusing Singh of taking people for granted since the next general elections are years away, BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said that the PM's contention that the price hike would be absorbed by the economy is a 'downright breach of faith that the aam aadmi has reposed in the government and smacks of arrogance'.
Instead of being sympathetic to the clear majority in Parliament wanting the rollback, he said the prime minister has chosen to add salt to the wounds of the people. Javadekar said at a press conference in Delhi that the majority is clearly against the hike as demonstrated by the spontaneous walkout by the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the National Democratic Front, the Left parties on Friday after the petroleum price hike was announced. Even the UPA's allies like the Trinamool Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham have also demanded a rollback in petro price hike.
Javadekar also announced that the Opposition will take the government to task over the fuel price issue in Parliament on Wednesday when it meets after a four-day break. He said the Parliament proceedings will be paralysed until the government yields to the demand of the majority and rolls back the fuel price hike. The NDA floor managers are meeting an hour before Parliament starts, he said, to initiate their plan of action.
Since the BJP is still an 'untouchable' for some of the parties, it has roped in NDA convener Sharad Yadav to coordinate with the Left, RJD, SP and other parties to organise a 'Bharat Bandh' on the lines of the massive protest on the Bofors kickback scandal organised in 1989 under the leadership of late former prime minister V P Singh.
Pointing out that the fuel price hike came as a shocker to the people already suffering from high food prices, Javadekar said the BJP will intensify its agitation till the government takes credible action to tame runaway inflation.
He said the hike in the price of petrol and diesel is neither economically nor morally justified as it is bound to have a cascading effect on the prices of all commodities.
Meanwhile, PTI reported that protests over fuel price hike paralysed normal life in Kerala and Tripura on Tuesday, while in Andhra Pradesh opposition legislators rode bicycles and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu took a bullock cart ride.
There were no reports of any untoward incident anywhere. The dawn-to-dusk strike called by pro-Left transport sector unions created a 'bandh-like' situation in Left-ruled Kerala as communist parties and their affiliates also pledged support to the protest, demanding a rollback of hike in duty on petrol and diesel prices, reports reaching the state capital said.
Private buses, truck, taxis and autorickshaws kept off the roads in most places. In northern districts, shops also remained closed in many towns.
Examinations scheduled for the day by the universities were cancelled in view of the strike. However, no violence was reported from anywhere, police said.
In Hyderabad, Naidu left his bullet-proof vehicle to hop on to a bullock cart to attend the Assembly proceedings. The bullock cart ride was part of the protest organised by TDP, CPI and CPI-M from the NTR Ghat to the state Assembly in which MLAs and MLCs belonging to opposition parties rode bicycles and followed Naidu.
After riding the bullock cart for over 500 metres, Naidu, who is Leader of Opposition in the AP Assembly, switched over to a bicycle and pedalled his way to the legislature building.
Hundreds of BJP activists too staged protests in New Delhi and water cannons had to be used to disperse them.
In Tripura, vehicular movement came to a halt in the wake of the 24-hour transport strike called jointly by the Motor Shramik Union (TMSU) and Auto-Rickshaw Workers Union (TAWU). Attendance at government offices was also affected.