Thursday’s bandh against the Manmohan Singh government’s new economic measures — increase in diesel price, restricted supply of LPG cylinders and FDI in multibrand retail — drew a mixed response with life being disrupted in a majority of Opposition-ruled States, and Delhi and Mumbai largely reporting normal business. The impact was felt the most in Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and Gujarat, where the BJP is in power. Reports of large-scale disruptions came in from Uttar Pradesh, where the bandh was enforced by the ruling Samajwadi Party.
The bandh was called by the BJP and eight other parties, including the Left and the SP. The protests produced many twists. The SP, which was on the streets protesting against the government, was expected to bail out the same regime post the exit of the Trinamool Congress.
In Chennai, the DMK, a vital component of the Union government, joined the strike while the AIADMK was non-committal on the call. In response to questions on the bandh, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had told reporters on Wednesday that she was more focussed on the Cauvery issue. Another ally of the UPA government that joined the protest was the Janata Dal (S).
The shutdown was near-total in Kolkata despite Mamata Banerjee’s rejection of the “politics of bandh.” Ironically, it was the West Bengal Chief Minister’s decision to pull out of the UPA government that acted as a trigger for the Opposition to unite against the reforms. The Left took to the streets in larger numbers but so did the Trinamool Congress, whose functionaries insisted that their protest was against the bandh.
In the national capital, the Opposition was in full attendance at the official protest site — Jantar Mantar. SP chief Mulayam Singh and Left leaders Prakash Karat and A.B. Bardhan courted arrest as did the Telugu Desam Party’s N. Chandrababu Naidu and H.D. Deve Gowda of the JD (S).
A highlight of the day was the coming together of BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and Mr. Bardhan. Hitting out at the government amid ringing slogans of “roll back FDI,” Mr. Gadkari said the Prime Minister was “factually wrong” in claiming that FDI in retail would create employment. Mr. Bardhan said while the Left and the BJP were ideological opponents, they were “united” when it came to fighting for the interests of the common people.