New Delhi: India may come to a standstill on Thursday with the BJP-led NDA and the Left giving a call for a nation-wide bandh to demand a rollback of the steepest-ever petrol price hike. Terming it as an "anti-people" decision and a "savage attack" on the people, the NDA called for a 'Bharat bandh', while Left parties will observe the day as 'All India Protest Day' that will include strikes, picketing, 'rasta roko' and rallies against the hike.
The announcement for the Bharat bandh, which was also called in protest against the rise in prices of essential commodities, was made both by senior BJP leader LK Advani and JD(U) President Sharad Yadav in their capacity as NDA's acting chairman and convenor respectively.
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said that after consultation with all the allies, Advani, on behalf of the NDA, has announced that the opposition alliance will organise a bandh across the country in the wake of the "enormous" hike of petrol prices and the deep sense of anger among people. The BJP appealed to the people to make the bandh a great success with Advani saying the hike is an "anti-people move" by the government.
Rejecting the government's argument that the hike has been effected by petroleum companies as the pricing of petrol stands deregulated, Yadav said, "This is an eyewash... We (NDA) are going to observe a Bharat Bandh on May 31."
Demanding a roll back, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray said a Bharat bandh is "acceptable" to the party.
Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare too has joined the battle.
"Even as corruption and inflation have made life difficult for common man, the government's decision to hike petrol prices has only added fuel to fire," he said. "My activists will support the 'Bharat Bandh' called by the BJP and Left parties on May 31 to protest petrol price hike," he added. He criticised the UPA government for burdening the common man with price hikes while they were celebrating their third anniversary of being in power.
"If the government does not pass the Jan Lokpal Bill, I will begin my fast unto death at New Delhi," he said.
The social worker also urged the youth to participate in his fight against corruption.
The petrol price hike of more than Rs 7.50 per litre announced recently by oil companies has led to fissures within the UPA government, with allies like the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and the DMK demanding a rollback. Even the Congress party has alleged that the party was not consulted before fixing the prices.
The Petroleum Ministry, however, has maintained that there will not be any immediate rollback of the prices, with Petroleum Minister Jaipal Reddy insisting last week that the government will watch the international situation for a few days before taking a decision.