Nationwide strike, cut motion planned to make Centre roll back hike in prices of petroleum products

With a view to exerting pressure on the Manmohan Singh government to roll back the hike in the prices of petroleum products and fertilizers, 13 political parties on Monday announced a twin-pronged plan — a nationwide strike on April 27 and amending the Finance Bill.

“On the relentless rise in the prices of essential commodities, we will act unitedly by moving a cut motion [on budget proposals] and amend the Finance Bill demanding a roll-back in the hike of prices of fuel and fertilizers, and a country-wide hartal on April 27,” Communist Party of India general secretary A.B. Bardhan said after a two-hour long meeting by the parties.

Leaders of the parties — that included CPI, CPI (Marxist), All-India Forward Bloc, Revolutionary Socialist Party, AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal, Janata Dal (Secular), Indian National Lok Dal, Lok Jan Shakti Party, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Rashtriya Lok Dal, and Telugu Desam Party — decided to pool their strength in Parliament to force the Centre to accept the demand.

Both Houses of Parliament resume sittings on April 15 for the second part of the budget session.

The cut motion and amendment process to the Finance Bill, if carried, makes the continuation of the government untenable, but leaders of these parties said the decision to utilise this parliamentary tool is not aimed at destabilising the Centre but make it yield to the collective demand.

“We do not want the government to be harmed, but if there is a mishap, the responsibility will be that of the government,” SP chief Mulayam Singh and his RJD counterpart Lalu Prasad said separately.

The leaders also discussed the possibility of the government attempting to divide the Opposition by moving the Women's Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha, considering the sharp differences on it within these parties.

However, it was felt that the focus should be on the price rise and on taking on the government inside Parliament.

The leaders also felt that the possibility of the government seeking to move the Women's Bill ahead of the consideration and passage of the Finance Bill appeared remote.

At the press conference, they said that on the Women's Bill — on which the SP and RJD have been demanding a quota for other backward classes — the government had already indicated that it will hold another meeting.

“After that meeting, if there is need, the leaders of the 13 parties can meet again,” Mr. Mulayam Singh said, while Mr. Prasad said the priority was price rise.

Other leaders who attended the meeting included Prakash Karat of the CPI (M), T.J. Chandrachoodan (RSP), Debabrata Biswas (AIFB), Om Prakash Chautala (INLD), H.D. Deve Gowda (JD-S), Ajit Singh (RJD) and N. Chandrababu Naidu (TDP).

Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M), Abani Roy (RSP), D. Raja (CPI), Nama Nageswar Rao, K. Rama Mohana Rao, Umareddy Venkateswarulu, K. Yerrannaidu and Danish Ali (JD-S) also attended.

Meanwhile, CPI Parliamentary Party leader Gurudas Dasgupta has written to the Speaker, citing the Constitution, that a member of the Lok Sabha has the right to reject any proposal in the Demands for Grants for Ministries through a cut motion.

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