The Left parties on Sunday announced a 12-hour all-India general strike on September 20 to protest against government's decision on diesel price, LPG cylinders and FDI in multi-brand retail, coinciding with the agitation by other opposition parties and United Progressive Alliance supporter Samajwadi Party.
"We have talked to other parties in this short time and decided on this protest by way of the 12-hour all-India strike," Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat told newspersons.
Karat also threatened to continue protests in various forms against these measures, saying, "As far as the Left is concerned, the battle will not be over on September 20."
He warned that they will not allow retail chains to function wherever they open shops in the country. Earlier, Left Front chairman in West Bengal Biman Bose said the strike would be enforced in the state from 6.00 am to protest against the "anti-people decisions of the UPA government," and called upon the people to respond to it.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led national Democratic Alliance on Saturday announced a nation-wide strike on the same date September 20 on the same issues.
"Everybody is opposed to it (FDI in muti-brand retail, except Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is more sensitive to criticism in foreign land," he said referring to some articles in American publications that have alleged that "he is not performing, not allowing FDI in retail."
"What is said in Washington and London is more important for the Prime Minister than the interest of the people of the country," he alleged.
"The UPA government has announced a series of measures which will harm the interests of people of the country, starting with diesel price hike and limiting of subsidised cooking gas cylinders to six per year while expecting a family to buy six more in the market price which will be double the amount," Karat said.
Stressing that the Left has always opposed the continuous process of hiking of prices of pretroleum products and demanded restructuring of tax structure on petro products, Karat said, "In the current increase, we have pointed out that you are making a false statement on losses by petroleum companies, whether it is IOC, ONGC or Hindustan Petroleum.
"None has reported any loss and many of these companies are making huge profits and paid dividends to the government," he said.
"The notion of under-recoveries by oil companies is false," he said. The increase of diesel prices by Rs five per litre in retail would immediately increase the inflation rate, the CPI-M general secretary warned.
Criticising the government for allowing 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, Karat said, "Since 2005, the prime minister has been trying to get this through. I don't know why this interest in getting Walmart in India."
"Ours is a country where shops employ four crore people. After agriculture, this is the largest employment provider in India.... Into this scenario, you want to bring these supermarket chains, which will destroy the retail shops."
"In western countries this has happened. No retail shop exists where there are these large multi-brand chains," he said. Claiming that all political parties, except the Congress were against FDI in multi-brand retail, Karat said, "I would like to challenge the Congress to show even two or three parties which have changed their stand and favoured it."
"The entire Opposition is opposed to it, from the right to the left," he said. "Regional parties which are in power have opposed it -- chief ministers Jayalalitha, Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, Nitish Kumar or even their own allies, the Trinamool Congress and the Dravida Munettra Kazhagam are opposed to it," he said.
"Already we have said that this Prime Minister should be investigated for his role in coal block allocation scandal. He was the minister-in-charge for four years," Karat said.
"Today, if he thinks his government can get away with such anti-nation, anti-people policies, he is mistaken," he said.
Asked about the Trinamool Congress' deadline of 72 hours to withdraw the measures announced, Karat wondered, "I don't know why the Trinamool Congress cannot stop it despite being in the Cabinet. During UPA I, we were not in the government, we were providing outside support.
"If we could stop it for four years, why couldn't they stop it now?" he wanted to know.
Karat said, "This is for the first time we are hearing of concern expressed by the Congress for the states. When we ask for PDS to the people or not to reduce fertiliser subsidy, they don't listen. Suddenly they are saying that they are not enforcing it, it is up to the states to allow foreign multi-brand retail chains.
"Only the Congress-ruled states like Haryana and Delhi have accepted it," he said. "We will continue to struggle to ensure that none of these chains, whether Walmart or any other, will set up shop," he said."We have discussed with other parties (in) the short time we had, we have announced this all-India protest action on September 20. We shall meet again and if the government continues to go ahead with its policies, we will have to intensify action," Karat said.