New Delhi: Political dissent deepened in India as a general strike called by main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) protesting higher petrol prices shuttered many shops and caused some disruption of road transport across the country.
State-owned oil retailers hiked the price of petrol by as much as Rs 7.5 a litre on 23 May, to offset losses from rising crude oil prices and a depreciating local currency.
Disrupting transport: Police try to disperse protestors attempting to stop a train at Malad railway station in Mumbai on Thursday.(Santosh Hirlekar/PTI)
The effect of the strike was more noticeable in the states ruled by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, such as Karnataka and Bihar.
“The nationwide bandh (strike) has been very successful,” BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said. “If the government has some sensibility, it should roll back the hike.”
However, fissures within the BJP became apparent as senior leader L.K. Advani on Thursday criticized the way his party was functioning.
“I had said at the core group meeting that if people are today angry with the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government, they are also disappointed with us,” Advani, who called for the strike, wrote in his weekly blog post. “The situation, I said, calls for introspection.”
BJP president Nitin Gadkari met party general secretaries to assess the strike in the backdrop of Advani’s comments.
“The party did not discuss anything beyond today’s bandh,” a leader who attended the meeting said on condition of anonymity. “There is nothing new in what Advani had said.”
The strike saw stray violence that included stone-throwing, arson and blocking of roads in Karnataka, Delhi, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Several BJP and Left leaders were arrested, including BJP leaders Shahnawaz Hussain and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav and Left leaders Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury and A.B. Bardhan.
The Congress party said the BJP was taking political advantage of the situation.
“I don’t think the (BJP) leaders were serious about this Bharat Bandh,” Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said. “They only tried to take political advantage of the price rise.”
The government is concerned about the rise in the price of petrol, said information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni.
“Opposition parties should consult the government and work with us,” she said. “They are exploiting the situation for political gains.”
PTI and Mint’s Sahil Makkar contributed to this story
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