New Delhi/Mumbai: Bharat Bandh, the six-hour nationwide shutdown, called on Monday by Opposition parties led by Congres against the rising fuel prices evoked a mixed response. Today's bandh call across India saw suspension of public transport services in Kerala, disruption of train services in Odisha and Bihar, detention of Congress and Opposition workers in several states, and sporadic incidents of violence in some parts of the country.
While schools, offices and business establishments remained closed in some parts of the country, normal life remained unaffected. Protests that took place in New Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Goa, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh were largely peaceful.
There was a spring that one could sense in the opposition. Barring a few, 21 political parties came together in the national capital and, by all accounts, made their presence felt, possibly the first time they have successfully done so in the last four years. This reflected the mood on the ground with people now complaining freely of their disillusionment with the Modi Government. The Bharat Bandh clearly signalled the launch of the Opposition’s campaign for the 2019 general election and seek a change of guard at the Centre.
The 'Bharat bandh' against the rising fuel prices called by the Congress and the Left parties severely affected normal life in Manipur, as all educational institutes were closed and attendance in offices was very thin.
Scores of Congress activists were taken into police custody in several states for forcibly trying to enforce the bandh, according to reports from the state capitals.
Bihar witnessed widespread arson, vandalism and disruption of rail and road traffic. Burning tyres were placed on railway tracks in the old Patna city area disrupting movement of trains.
Protesters targeted buses, including some school vehicles, and disrupted rail traffic at some places in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, officials said. At some places, petrol pumps were also targeted.
Schools, colleges and shopping establishments remained closed at a number of places in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Gujarat, officials added.
In Odisha, train services were disrupted in many places as Congress workers blocked railway tracks to enforce the bandh. At least 10 trains were cancelled.
Normal life was thrown out of gear in Karnataka where the Congress-JD(S) combine is in power.
Roads in Bangalore wore a deserted look as government buses, private taxis and most autorickshaws did not ply. Businesses, shops, malls, some private enterprises remained closed.
KSRTC buses kept off the road and city buses also did not ply. In Mangaluru, incidents of stone pelting at hotels and shops, which remained open, were reported. At least 2,000 textile factories remained shut in support of Bharat Bandh in Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu.
Addressing the protest rally at Ramleela Maidan in New Delhi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi alleged hatred was being spread and the country being divided under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was also present.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh said it was time for all opposition parties to shed their differences and move forward unitedly "to save" sovereignty and democracy.
Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu announced a reduction in petrol and diesel price by Rs 2 each, in the state. It will come into effect from Tuesdsay, reports ANI.
The BJP defended the rise in oil prices, attributing it to global factors, and accused the Congress and other opposition parties of resorting to violence during the bandh as people did not support their call.
Prasad claimed that the people understood the government's point of view and refused to support the 'Bharat Bandh' call.
"That is unnerving the Congress and other opposition parties. Their resort to violence is designed to overawe the people of India. An atmosphere of fear is being created," Prasad told reporters.
Senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy however said, "I feel that the macroeconomic price for petrol is Rs 40 and somehow the PM must ask the Petroleum Minister to think as a part of Economic Affairs Ministry and not as Petroleum Minister and stop setting prices so high that people can go to the point of revolt."
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