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Updated: March 3, 2010 03:00 IST

Opposition steps up offensive on price hike

    Neena Vyas
    K.V. Prasad
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A scene at a petrol bunk in Bangalore. Opposition MPs are planning to raise a storm over petrol and diesel price hikes when parliament reconvenes on Wednesday after a four-day break. Photo: The Hindu
The Hindu A scene at a petrol bunk in Bangalore. Opposition MPs are planning to raise a storm over petrol and diesel price hikes when parliament reconvenes on Wednesday after a four-day break. Photo: The Hindu

Sensing an opportunity to expose the lack of unity in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on the issue of hike in the taxes on petroleum products, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Opposition is drawing up plans to embarrass the government.

The BJP also plans to take Opposition unity on this issue to a new plane even as the Left parties decided to step up pressure on the government leading to its March 12 rally in the capital against rise in the prices of essential commodities.

BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday criticised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the “arrogance of power” displayed in his assertion that there would be no rollback of the increased taxes on petroleum products announced in the budget.

On Wednesday the party would plan its floor strategy on this issue and other subjects at a meeting of National Democratic Alliance leaders.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat said the party did not accept the argument offered by the government to justify the hike in petroleum products.

In the context of the rise in prices of food items, he said, the effect of the hike on petrol and diesel prices would be felt and cannot be minimised. “People will be put to great suffering if there is further rise in prices, of food items in particular,” he told The Hindu.

As for the Opposition strategy in Parliament, he said while the CPI(M) was trying to bring non-Congress secular parties together, on the issue of price rise, the entire Opposition was agitated and last week’s development in Parliament was an expression of that.

After Tuesday’s strike in Kerala against the hike in fuel prices, the Left Front will hold week-long demonstrations across West Bengal. Between March 3 and 9, the Left parties will conduct processions in various places.

Separately, trade unions across the political spectrum have decided to go on a mass agitation in different parts of the country in the form of road and rail blockades, and satyagraha to protest the rise in prices of essential commodities and now the hike in petroleum products.

All India Trade Union Congress general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta, MP, told The Hindu, that for the first time all trade unions including those affiliated to the Congress and the BJP would agitate on March 5. Lakhs of workers will offer arrest in metropolitan and industrial centres in the country.

Cut motion

The BJP said the party wants to use a cut motion during the vote on the Finance Bill in the second part of the budget session less as a tool to defeat the government and more to show up the fissures in the UPA as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Trinamool Congress have both demanded a rollback of the tax hike.

The party is hoping that Opposition unity would take place automatically and on the spur of the moment as it materialised when one party after another walked out during the budget presentation on February 26 in the Lok Sabha.

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