At a protest organised by the RJD in Patna on Sunday. (PTI)
A UNITED opposition will observe Bharat Bandh on Monday over rising fuel prices and weakening of the rupee, scaling up their offensive against the government on an issue which they hope will have resonance among the people less than seven months away from Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress, which announced the bandh last week, claimed as many as 21 opposition parties have extended support. It said a number of traders’ bodies and industry chambers too have conveyed support to the nationwide shutdown, the first joint political action by the opposition in several months.
Leaders of opposition parties will sit in a dharna at Rajghat, tweeted Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala. Sources said UPA leader Sonia Gandhi may participate in the protest.
The Congress has been heavily critical of the government over a variety of issues but has not been able to launch a strong movement on the ground. Several leaders in the party had been urging the leadership to launch street protests and agitations instead of fighting the government only through social media and media conferences.
On Sunday, the Congress reiterated its demand for bringing petrol and diesel under GST claiming that it will provide some relief to the people.
“Once they bring it under GST automatically petrol and diesel prices will fall by 15 to 18 rupees and the cascading impact of increase in petroleum prices also, would be reduced once it is brought down by bringing it under the GST. We are also asking the government to take measures to arrest this steep fall of rupee, because the value of rupee crossing 72 to a dollar is something which is not good for the economy and also it has an impact on other things,” senior Congress leader Ajay Maken told reporters.
“So, these are the two main things we want the government to improve,” he added.
Maken also appealed to party workers to maintain peace and not to associate with any violent protests.
Holding the BJP government responsible for the rise in petrol and diesel prices, Maken alleged that it has kept on raising excise duty on fuel even as international crude oil prices came down. “Between 2014 and now, excise duty on petrol has risen by 211.7 per cent and 433 per cent on diesel. The excise duty on petrol was Rs 9.2 per litre in 2014 and it has gone up to Rs 19.48 per litre. Similarly, the excise duty on diesel was Rs 3.46 per litre and today it stands at Rs 15.33 per litre,” he said.
The government has collected Rs 11 crore as excise duty by “burdening” people and “robbing them”, he alleged.
with the Express Morning Briefing