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Indian opposition readies for nationwide demonstrations
September 16, 2012
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NEW DELHI: In a bid to mount pressure on United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, allies Samajwadi Party (SP) and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) will join Left parties, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) for a nationwide “powerful” demonstrations on Thursday to oppose the decision to allow foreign players in retail and hike in diesel prices.

In a joint statement, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and others alleged that the UPA government has “stuck cruel blows on the people one after another” by raising diesel price, limiting subsidised cooking gas, opening up of multi-brand retail and disinvestment of PSUs.

The joint statement, however, does not mention about Friday’s government decision allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in aviation and broadcasting.

“Let us all unite to stop these measures which will further burden the people and ruin their livelihood. Let there be a powerful demonstrations through hartals, picketing, demonstrations and court arrest programmes,” the statement said.

Besides Yadav, the statement was signed by HD Deve Gowda (JD-S), Prakash Karat (CPI-M), S. Sudhakar Reddy (CPI), Naveen Patnaik (BJD), Chandrababu Naidu (TDP), Debabrata Biswas (Forward Bloc) and TJ Chandrachoodan (RSP).

SP and JD-S, which are supporting the UPA government from outside, have been critical of the government’s decisions.

They along with Left parties had earlier written a joint letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on price hike issue.

“It (UPA) has raised the price of diesel by Rs5 per litre, burdening the farmers. It has limited subsidised gas cylinder per family to six and the rest will have to be bought at market price which is more than double.

“It has opened multi-brand retail trade to foreign supermarket chains, endangering livelihood of more than 40 million people involved in retail trade and the mass of consumers.

“It is selling off shares of profitable PSUs and navaratna companies like NALCO and Oil India,” the statement said.

Asking public to protest the “anti-people measures,” the leaders appealed to farmers, workers, women, youths, transporters, shopkeepers, traders organisations and all “patriotic-minded citizens” to join the movement.

Accusing government of trying to divert attention from corruption issue with its decision on FDI in multi-brand retail, BJP on Saturday said all states in which the party is in power are unanimous in their opposition to the step and will intensify their protest against it.

The party also asked Mulayam Singh Yadav and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to immediately withdraw support to the government if they are opposed to the UPA’s policy decisions on diesel price hike and FDI in multi-brand retail.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani said on his blog that the government is “gravely mistaken” if it feels that it can shift focus from corruption with its FDI decision and warned that it is committing “harakiri.”

“All BJP governments will oppose the decision of allowing FDI in multi-brand retail...This decision lacks vision. The government has completely ignored the Standing Committee recommendations which had opposed it and is challenging the parliamentary institutions by taking this decision,” BJP spokesperson Jagat Prakash Nadda said.

BJP ruled states Gujarat, Karnataka and Jharkhand had earlier supported FDI in retail but backed out when the controversy erupted over the issue.

Punjab, where BJP is a junior partner in the government led by ally SAD, was also initially in favour of FDI in multi-brand retail.

All NDA allies now appear to be agreement in opposing FDI in multi-brand retail.

The small traders, who are likely to be affected if multinational brands like Walmart and Carrefour come to India, form a core votebank of the BJP.

BJP is in the process of chalking out a strategy for launching a nation-wide agitation against this decision.

“We will further intensify our agitation across the country,” Nadda said. The party maintained that it is not anti-reforms but is opposed to blindly following any policy.

Agencies

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