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Why Congress has called a Bharat bandh

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
September 10, 2018 08:10 IST
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'What has taken the government so long to understand what the people of this country are going through?'

The Congress party has called for a Bharat bandh on Monday, September 10, to protest the rising fuel prices across the country and has claimed the support of 21 Opposition parties.

Petrol price in Mumbai touched Rs 87.89 per litre and diesel Rs 77.09 on Sunday, September 9. In Delhi, petrol was priced at Rs 80.50, diesel was at Rs 72.10.

The Congress party says the Modi government is not bringing petrol and diesel price under GST, which would automatically bring down fuel prices and thus benefit the Indian people.

"Here we have a government which has got the benefit of falling crude prices across the world, which is almost to half. And yet you see the insensitive government not passing on the benefit (to the Indian people)," Priyanka Chaturvedi, below, convenor, All India Congress Committee, and national spokesperson of the party, tells's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.


Is a bandh a solution for the high petrol and diesel prices?

A bandh may not be a solution to the petrol prices, but it is an expression of the anger that is amidst the people right now over the Narendra Damodardas Modi government's broken promises.

Let us not forget that this is the government which spoke about all these issues (when the Bharatiya Janata Party was in the Opposition).

Let us not forget that ever since this government came to power we have seen world oil prices come down to half, yet this government is not passing on the benefit to the people of this country.

They are continuously charging huge amounts in excise duty on petrol. We have seen a steady increase in excise duty.

We have seen a huge increase in excise duty on petrol -- over 211 percent under this government and over 430 percent on diesel prices -- while world oil prices have been falling.

So we want to ask this government you had raised this issue in 2014 and now you have stable oil prices (internationally), why then do you continue to earn money at the expense of the aam janta?

The government has now accumulated Rs 11,000 lakh crores in excise duty. The Rajasthan government today (Sunday) cut down VAT (value added tax) on fuel by over 4 percent.

What has taken the government so long to understand what the people of this country are going through?

A bandh inconveniences the aam janta, does it not?

The country has been going through a very inconvenient climate and a very inconvenient situation where the economy has been severely strained because of the wrong policy of the government, the benefits of which have not passed on to the people.

I am very certain that the people of India are supporting the Opposition on this Bharat bandh.

Let us not forget that the Modi government promised achche din and we are only seeing boore din for every single Indian.

Be it demonetisation which was unthought, and the unimplementable GST which they got in. Rising fuel prices, plus the rupee depreciating.

Rising fuel prices was a problem even during the Congress-led UPA regime. So what is the difference between the Congress and the BJP?

The difference is very stark and very clear. The Congress party in its entire tenure saw the world economy crash while a country like India continued to be safeguarded because of our strong economic fundamentals and principles, through policies which we initiated.

Oil prices had reached their peak during our tenure, but we ensured that the people were insulated from the price we were paying to acquire oil.

Here we have a government which has got the benefit of falling crude prices across the world, which is almost to half. And yet you see the insensitive government not passing on the benefit (to the Indian people).

Rather than passing on the benefit it is only increasing excise duty to the extent where the government has earned over Rs 11,000 lakh crore in terms of money generated in revenues, but not given thought to the people of this country.

We are seeing petrol prices which are higher than what the Pakistanis pay, what the Sri Lankans pay and what the Americans pay.

We are exporting petrol at half the price, so what makes you continue to charge the people of this country obnoxious amounts of money through VAT and various other state taxes?

Will petrol and diesel under GST make a big difference in prices?

Absolutely, and this is something Shri Rahul Gandhi has also been demanding from the government, that petroleum products have to come under GST. There has to be one uniform tax charged across the country.

You have a city like Mumbai which is charging an obnoxious amount of money in taxes on petrol. Then you have Punjab and Karnataka which are charging something different.

Soaring petrol prices are causing a huge impact on the rural economy of our country. Everyone is affected, be it traders, farmers, businessmen and the common man.

You have called a bandh when your party president is not in India.

Shri Rahul Gandhi is monitoring this entire issue. He has been raising the fuel price issue on every platform. And as far as he is concerned he knows what he expects from us. He is in control and he knows what is happening.

He is on a holy pilgrimage, a commitment which he made after he almost lost his life in that air plane crash during the Karnataka assembly election. We need to respect and value his sentiments with regard to his commitment of going to Kailash Mansarovar.

But let me tell you, he is totally hands on with this protest. Mrs Sonia Gandhi will herself be attending the protest. We are working together and working in tandem.

The BJP says the Congress failed as a ruling party and has now failed as an Opposition party too.

Anything that comes from the BJP is extremely laughable.

Here is a party when in the Opposition made a huge hue and cry about what the government was doing on petrol prices. Now when they are in power they refuse to hold itself accountable.

You are the authority. You are the one in charge.

The people of this country gave you a huge mandate, but what have you done to the people of this country is one of the biggest letdowns.

And that is why there is double the anger as far is this government is concerned and twice the anger as far as Narendra Modi's leadership is concerned.

The Shiv Sena says it wants to see Congress party mein kitna dum hai Bharat bandh karaney mein.

The Congress has the blessings of the people of this country.

The Congress has the confidence of the people of this country.

The Congress will live up to its responsibility of an Opposition that holds this government accountable when it continues to behave in an authoritarian and dictatorial manner.

We will continue to espouse the values of democracy.

It is unfortunate that the Shiv Sena talks about kismey kitna hai dum when they themselves are the weakest link in the BJP right now.

They continue to cling onto power only because they have no other option and do not have the spine to take this government head on.

They may criticise the BJP within the alliance, but have no confidence to pull out of the government in Maharashtra.

They continue to enjoy the perks of power without wanting to take up responsibility.

The Bombay high court had declared bandhs as illegal some years ago, asking who will pay for the losses the country faces.

The country is facing a huge amount of losses because of this visionless government.

The country is facing a huge amount of losses because of lack of businesses, lack of business opportunities, lack of jobs and rural distress.

This is what the country is facing every single day.

And those losses, I would say, are way more unbearable and are leading the country towards a bigger economic crisis than a one-day token strike for a few hours (the bandh is from 9 am to 3 pm) to make this government accountable for what it has been unleashing across the country.

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf /