The government initiatives, including operationalisation of the foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail and Rs. 5 hike in diesel price have come in handy for the Opposition to step up their campaign against the United Progressive Alliance and project it as ‘anti-people’ government.
While the Left parties warned of ‘wave of protests’ across the country, the response of the Bharatiya Janata Party was more nuanced. The crux of the party’s argument was that it was not opposed to the FDI per se but it should be done on a case by case basis after ensuring level-playing field to the domestic players.
The Opposition parties were unanimous in condemnation of the hike in diesel price and their demand for immediate rollback. However, they chose not to respond to the case made by the Congress that the State governments could lessen the burden on consumers by slashing the sales tax.
The other common theme in the reaction of the Opposition was that if the UPA allies and supporting parties were really concerned about the impact of these decisions on common people, they should demonstrate their intent by withdrawing support to the Manmohan Singh government.
At a meeting on Thursday night, the BJP Core Committee and office-bearers chalked out a programme for nation-wide protests against corruption and inflation under the UPA government. As the meeting was on the announcement on diesel price hike, it was decided to go the whole hog against it.
The decision of the government to go ahead with the FDI in multi-brand is not exactly a surprise to the Opposition parties, since the UPA had deferred its implementation the last time under pressure from its allies and supporting parties.
The BJP sees an opportunity to rope in some allies like the Trinamool Congress in its campaign against the Manmohan Singh government. The party would closely watch the moves of the UPA allies in the next few days.
“It is an acid test for the UPA allies to show whether they stand with the people and demand and get rollback of the prices or blindly support the government for the sake of power. Mere lip sympathy and shedding crocodile tears will not suffice,” BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said.
The CPI(M), CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc charged the government with giving in to pressure from foreign forces with measures like FDI in multi-brands and civil aviation.
In a statement the CPI(M) Polit Bureau said: “The CPI(M) calls upon all its units to organise strong protest actions against the imposition of such severe economic burdens. The CPI (M) calls upon all secular opposition forces to unite in protests to force the UPA-II government to rollback this unreasonable hike in the prices of diesel and limiting cooking gas cylinders.”
CPI National Secretary D. Raja said the country would witness a “wave of protests” in the coming days as the UPA had come out with a “very very disastrous course which will rob the livelihood and jobs of millions of people.”
‘Prisoner of corporates’
He alleged the UPA had become a “prisoner of corporates” and it went ahead with these “anti-people” measures as it wanted to impress the corporates.”
BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad said: “The BJP strongly condemns this hurried decision forcing FDI in multi-brand retail. In spite of serious opposition from within the Congress, its allies and nearly the entire Opposition led by the BJP, the government has seriously jeopardised the life, livelihood and employment of five crore people involved in retail trade in the country.”
He alleged this has been done under the pressure of “foreign elements” and would not bring any concrete return benefits to the country.