Bengaluru/Chennai: Public transport, educational institutions and government offices across several non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states are likely to be affected by the “Bharat Bandh" called by the Congress against rising diesel and petrol prices. Several states, especially in South India, where the BJP has little or no presence in terms of elected representatives, have come out in support of the Bharat Bandh call, which seeks to target the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Union government ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The Bharat Bandh today is the first pan-India campaign through which the Congress is trying to lead a consolidated opposition against the BJP.
The Congress has tried to keep up the pressure on the Modi government over issues such as the Rafale fighter jet deal, demonetisation, a depreciating rupee and the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), among others, to help mobilize public opinion against the BJP.
Regional parties, including the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), in Karnataka, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu and Left parties in Kerala and elsewhere, have supported the bandh call.
The Bharat Bandh will be observed between 9am and 3pm. Congress workers are expected to organize sit-in protests at petrol pumps.
The JD(S)-Congress coalition, which is yet to find its footing despite crossing the 100-day milestone in Karnataka, have also supported the Bharat Bandh. Several transport corporations are also supporting the protest. In Kerala, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Congress-led opposition, United Democratic Front (UDF), will support the bandh call, albeit separately.
The call for the Bharat Bandh was criticized by sections of the civic society in Kerala, as the state is still trying to recover from the floods, which left a massive trail of deaths and destruction. “It is pure arrogance of political parties. It will impact the ongoing relief and rebuilding process for the flood victims," said industrialist Kochouseph Chittilappally, who is known for his anti-hartal advocacy, and is part of a movement called ‘Say No To Hartal’.
“The only focus of this government is to safeguard the interests of petroleum companies and not that of the common man," said M.K. Stalin, the newly elected president of the DMK.