NATIONAL

BJP plans protest against price rise on December 1

NEW DELHI, NOV. 29. The Bharatiya Janata Party has planned a demonstration on December 1 at the start of the winter session of Parliament against the recent price rise and the general inflationary trend witnessed over the last six months. However, it is evasive about any plans to continue its agitation on the arrest of the Kanchi Sankaracharya, Jayendra Saraswati, in the Sankararaman murder case.

At a press meet here today, the former Finance Minister, Yashwant Sinha, said that although the present Government had the "best possible team" for taking decisions related to the economy, it had not been able to control inflation, which the Vajpayee Government had been able to do successfully over five years. In the last year of the Narasimha Rao Government, the average inflation was about 8 per cent (1995-96) and between 1999-2004 when Mr. Vajpayee headed the Government, it ranged from 3.5 to 4 per cent.

While the higher price of international crude would have certainly affected the price rise, this factor alone was not entirely responsible. "When the United Progressive Alliance Government presented the budget in July, we had warned that the budget was inflationary," Mr. Sinha said. A slew of measures, including an increase in the price of steel, the education cess and the higher rate of service tax expanded to cover more areas, had all the makings of inflation. And that is what happened, he added.

On December 1, the BJP State units will help mobilise a crowd at the Ramlila Maidan from where the gathering will walk in a procession to Parliament Street, outside Parliament, to register the party's protest.

On the Sankaracharya issue, Mr. Sinha would not commit his party to any programme. The parliamentary party, in consultation with the National Democratic Alliance partners, would decide when and whether the issue should be raised in the House, he said. Tomorrow, the NDA leaders are scheduled to meet and chalk out their parliamentary strategy.

Initially the BJP had protested against the treatment meted out to the seer. The view was that in keeping in mind the sensitivity of the case, it would not have been wrong to allow special treatment for the Acharya. "The accused is innocent till proven wrong, and in the case of the Sankaracharya, he has not even been charged as yet, the police are yet investigating the case."

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