The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the Left parties have issued separate calls for a 12-hour “Bharath Bandh” on Monday to protest the “hefty” increase effected in the prices of petroleum products by the United Progressive Alliance government.

While NDA working chairman and senior BJP leader L.K. Advani appealed to all sections and party workers to hold the agitation peacefully and make it a success to highlight the “insensitivity of the government,” the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India, the All-India Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party called for a massive participation by the people in the bandh, saying that such a protest would send out a message to the government to review its policies, revoke the decontrol of fuel prices and drop any move for further decontrol.

The NDA and the Left parties made it clear that they were not joining hands. Essential services such as hospitals, electricity and water and milk supply would be exempted from the bandh.

Some important non-UPA parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal in Uttar Pradesh and the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Lok Jan Sakthi Party in Bihar are not joining the protest. In fact, the RJD and the LJP have given a bandh call for July 10 in Bihar. The BSP, led by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, is also considering a protest.

Meanwhile, the CPI (M) Polit Bureau, which met here on Saturday and Sunday, endorsed the bandh call given by the Left parties. It said: “This powerful all-India protest should serve as a warning to the government not to heap burdens on the people and to withdraw the price hike…” The Centre's decision to deregulate petrol and diesel prices “are meant to help the private oil companies and put the people at the mercy of a market controlled by oil MNCs and domestic corporates,” it said.

Earlier talking to journalists after a meeting of NDA leaders at his residence, Mr. Advani said the protest should compel the “Kumbhakarna-like government” to wake up. Barring some small parties that sided with the UPA, most of the parties were joining the agitation, he said. “This may be the first time in the history of Indian politics that almost all parties will participate in the Bharat Bandh.”

Referring to a newspaper advertisement issued by the Petroleum Ministry, claiming that the price of the domestic LPG cylinder was cheaper in India than in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal, Mr. Advani said the government conveniently did not compare the prices of petrol and diesel in India with those in the other countries; they were cheaper there.

About the government's claim that the ‘hartal' would not help to bring down the prices of petroleum products, Mr. Advani quipped: “Even we do not claim that prices will come down because of this bandh. The solution lies in the hands of the government. Unfortunately, there is no indication that the government has a solution.”

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