Senior leaders of the National Democratic Alliance including BJP national president Nitin Gadkari, former president Rajnath Singh and JD(U) leader and NDA convenor Sharad Yadav courted arrest at a dharna at Chandni Chowk here on Monday as part of the NDA-sponsored nationwide Bharat Bandh against increase in oil prices.

Addressing the demonstration, Mr. Gardkari blamed the UPA Government’s “wrong economic policies and bad governance” as reasons for the rise in prices of all essential commodities. “When the UPA came to power, they said they would control prices in 100 days. But instead we have seen prices rise threefold and fourfold during this Government’s tenure,” Mr. Gadkari said.

Attempting to reach out to opposition parties, Mr. Gadkari said all parties sincerely opposed to the “anti-people policies” of the Congress-led UPA Government should rise above their differences and unite for the sake of the poor in the country. He added that he was willing to visit the offices of all Opposition parties and discuss the issue of spiralling prices.

The BJP chief said his Congress counterpart, Sonia Gandhi, should answer why her Prime Minister who is also an economist is failing to curb inflation. “Why are she and Rahul Gandhi who otherwise say they speak for the poor, quiet on the issue of price rise?” Mr. Gadkari asked.

He also took exception to some television news channels highlighting only the discomfort to people caused by the Bandh. “We did not call the Bandh with happiness. We were forced to do so after taking note of the distress caused to poor people by rising prices.”

Mr. Gadkari also pointed out that petrol prices in India’s South Asian neighbourhood hovered in the range of Rs.25-35 per litre and said that prices were so high in India because of excessive taxation by the Central Government.

Claiming that the Bandh was a “success” all over the country, NDA convener Sharad Yadav said people were participating whole-heartedly in it because the price rise had affected the life of the common man in every way.

Former BJP president Rajnath Singh warned that the BJP would stall the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament on the price rise issue if the Government did not rollback oil prices. Mr. Singh said the Congress had betrayed the people by not upholding the promise it made when assuming power, to control inflation.

Former Delhi Chief Minister Madanlal Khurana, Shiromani Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, BJP general secretary Vijay Goel and Delhi BJP president Vijender Gupta also courted arrest. The arrested leaders were later released on bail.

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