The Congress party’s call for Bharat bandh over rising fuel prices on September 10 received support from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK).
Calling for a nationwide shutdown on Monday, Congress had asked other opposition parties and civils society groups to extend their support against the spiralling fuel prices.
RJD national vice president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh informed reporters here about the party’s decision to extend support to Congress and Left sponsored countrywide shutdown on Monday.
“We have to strengthen our opposition’s unity in the proposed Bharat bandh… We will be actively participating in Bharat bandh for people’s interest,” Singh said at the party office.
The senior leader of Lalu Prasad’s party also announced that the RJD would organise “jail bharo” in January next year to “uproot” Narendra Modi-led government which has “failed on all fronts especially in taming the fuel prices”.
Apart from MDMK and RJD, other opposition parties including the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) have also extended support to the nationwide shutdown.
Announcing the decision of calling Bharat bandh, Congress leaders Ashok Gehlot, Ahmed Patel, Motilal Vora, Mallikarjun Kharge and Randeep Singh Surjewala on Thursday said the common man was bearing the brunt of escalating prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas as well as of other essential commodities.
“The Congress party has decided that we will give a call for Bharat Bandh on September 10, Monday, in order to highlight the Rs 11 lakh crore fuel loot, to demand that there should be immediate reduction in central excise duty and excessive VAT in the states, and that petrol and diesel be brought within GST so that the common man whose budget has gone haywire, they are provided the requisite relief,” Surjewala told reporters.
Surjewala said on May 16, 2014, when the Congress Party demitted power, international crude oil prices were far higher at around USD 106 per barrel and petrol price was Rs 71.41 and diesel at Rs 55.49 per litre.
In comparison, he said, the present international prices of crude oil are around 73-77 USD per barrel. However, he added, petrol is now at Rs 79.31 and diesel at Rs 71.34, which is “unprecedented”.
“Modi Ji has collected Rs 11 lakh crore in taxes… And has consequently fleeced the common person of this country. Excise duty on petrol since May 2014 has been increased by 211 per cent. Excise duty on diesel since May 2014 has been increased by 443 per cent, Surjewala said.
“This is unprecedented. Yet, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi chooses to remain mum as prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas are burning a hole in the pocket of common man,” he said.
He said bringing petrol and diesel within the ambit of GST will reduce their prices by Rs 10-15 a litre.
“The rupee is getting devalued every day. 10 per cent is the loss in value of rupee in last one year, it is the most devalued currency in Asia, but neither the prime minister nor the finance minister are worried about it,” he claimed.
The Congress leader said the ‘Bandh’ will be between 9 AM to 2.30-3 PM so that the common person is not inconvenienced.
The left parties have given a separate call for bandh on the same day over the hike in fuel prices, the problem of farmers and unemployment issues.
On Saturday, petrol price crossed the Rs 80 mark in the national capital for the first time ever as rupee depreciation made imports costlier.
Petrol price was Saturday raised by 39 paise a litre and diesel by 44 paise per litre, according to price notification issued by state fuel retailers.
The increase pushed the petrol price in Delhi to Rs 80.38 per litre. Diesel rate touched its highest level of Rs 72.51 a litre.
In Mumbai, a litre of petrol costs Rs 87.77 and diesel comes for Rs 76.98, the notification said.
Defending the government from the criticism by the opposition over the fuel price hike, Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Saturday attributed the spike in price to international factors, including the depreciation of the Indian rupee against the US dollar.
He also said that Iran, Venezuela and Turkey – the three major oil-producing countries – had said that they would increase productivity but didn’t do so despite their promise.