How successful would be Thursday’s scheduled ‘Bharat Bandh’, announced by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Left parties, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and others?
This will be the first test of opposition unity after Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) announced she was pulling out from the United Progressive Alliance at the Centre. Realistically, the BJP knows it will not succeed, because several state governments have announced they will not take part, including Banerjee herself in West Bengal. Yet, the BJP says it doesn’t matter if the bandh is successful or not because “three quarters of Parliament is with us”. It helps that the All India Motor Transport Congress, the organisation representing truckers, transporters and bus operators across the country, has decided to join the bandh.
They decided in a meeting in Mumbai to suspend operations for a day across the country, from midnight on Wednesday to protest against the diesel price rise, said its president, Bal Malkit Singh.
He further said the road transport sector would not be able to absorb the rise and it was decided at the meet that both the central and state governments be asked to reduce the excise and customs duties and value added tax on diesel.
It was also decided that if the government did not withdraw the price rise, they might give a call for indefinite suspension of operations.
In a coordinated attack on the UPA government, opposition parties and some of the allies of UPA have called for a nationwide bandh tomorrow, demanding that the Union government take back its decision to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, the rise in diesel prices, de-allocate all 142 coal blocks given to private companies for captive mining and to also to remove the cap on subsidised cooking gas cylinders.
The support of the SP and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for the bandh has given reasons for the opposition to believe the government will be forced to reverse its decisions because it cannot take the chance of losing more alliance partners, with the TMC moving out of the government.
“The truth is that a majority of members of both Houses of Parliament are supporting this bandh and the government is not even getting support of its allies. We believe the government will be forced to take back its decision. It is a movement against the government and UPA allies are also against it,” said Prakash Javadekar, BJP leader. “All opposition parties are together on the demand and there is no reason why the government will not agree the majority view of parliamentarians.”