New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi observed a day-long fast on Thursday along with all the members of Parliament (MPs) of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to send out a strong message that the Union government was not responsible for the recent washout of the second half of the budget session.
Even as Modi observed the fast, all official engagements continued, with the Prime Minister visiting Chennai for official functions on Thursday.
Blaming the Congress-led opposition for the deadlock in both the houses of Parliament during the recently concluded session, BJP leaders said that there were several crucial bills which could not be taken up for discussion because of the disruption caused collectively by opposition parties.
“We want the voice of the people to resonate across the country. We believe that people are annoyed that an entire session was wasted due to disruptions by the opposition. Now we want to express our disappointment by going on a fast led by Prime Minister," said a senior BJP leader who also observed fast on Thursday. BJP president Amit Shah led a protest meeting in Hubli, Karnataka, against disruption in Parliament.
Among the major issues that led to repeated disruptions in both the houses of Parliament were the Cauvery issue, alleged dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, alleged frauds at public sector banks and demand for special status for Andhra Pradesh. The death of 39 Indians in Mosul also became a point of contention between the government and opposition parties.
“The government was ready for discussion on all issues, but the opposition just didn’t allow it to happen. It is our responsibility to inform the country that the government was not responsible for the disruption," the BJP leader added.
BJP’s fast comes after Congress organized a nationwide fast on Monday to promote social harmony and protest against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST Act. The fast was, however, accompanied with slip-ups by the party, which had put it on the defensive.
“Organizing fasts is symbolic in nature and holds a lot of importance with respect to what the issue at hand is. Here, the government is fasting against the unproductive Parliament session for which it is itself responsible," a senior Congress party leader said requesting anonymity. “When such events are organized, then the sincerity of the effort should be very visible," the leader added.
In the recent political events, the fast against corruption led by social activist Anna Hazare drew attention from millions in India during 2013 which eventually became one of the reasons of Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) being voted out of power an year later. More recently, Hazare held a fast last month in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who sprang to political spotlight following his close association with Hazare’s movement, has fasted on a number of issues including a two-week fast in 2013 over inflated price of electricity and water bills. During his first stint as chief minister in Delhi, Kejriwal also sat on a protest outside the Rail Bhawan in central Delhi over non-cooperation by officers. Last month, Kejriwal announced that he would go on a hunger strike over the ongoing sealing drive in the city but later postponed his decision.
This month, several political parties have also resorted to hunger strikes over various demands from the central government. Earlier this month, members of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam called for a statewise hunger strike to protest against the central government’s failure to set up a Cauvery management board.
Since the end of the budget session of Parliament on 6 April, five members of the YSR Congress have also been on an indefinite strike over the demand for special category status for Andhra Pradesh.