NEW DELHI: Public transport, educational institutions, shops and business establishments and government offices in many states across the country were affected by the “Bharat Bandh” called by the Congress against rising diesel and petrol prices.
The bandh call supported by regional parties, including the Janata Dal (Secular) Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Left parties brought life to near standstill in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, according to reports.
The bandh did not make any impact in the BJP ruled states. It evoked mixed response in the remaining states. The Bharat Bandh today is the first pan-India campaign through which the Congress is trying to lead a consolidated opposition against the BJP.
The Congress has tried to keep up the pressure on the Modi government over issues such as the Rafale fighter jet deal, demonetisation, a depreciating rupee and the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), among others, to help mobilize public opinion against the BJP.
Reports from states said that state-run buses and other vehicles kept off roads and educational institutions were shut in Karnataka, Kerala, Assam and Odisha. Pro-bandh activists blocked trains in Odisha’s Sambalpur and in Patna’s Rajendra Nagar Terminal railway station and vandalised vehicles in Bihar.
The bandh had a partial effect on the national capital as offices, schools and colleges opened at regular time despite the ‘Bharat Bandh’ although traffic was affected in Daryaganj and around Ramlila Maidan, amid heavy police deployment.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi led the protests at a meeting in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan along with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and former JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav (now leader of Loktantrik Janata Dal). UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh joined the protest.
In Mumbai, trains were halted briefly and petrol pumps were forced shut in some parts of Mumbai as public vehicles, including buses, autorickshaws and taxis, plied normally in the financial capital.
Congress leaders Ashok Chavan, Sanjay Nirupam, Manikrao Thakre and several followers were detained by police when they tried to block trains at Andheri station. Train services passing through the station were suspended briefly.
In Bihar, the Jan Adhikar Party workers vandalised vehicles in state capital Patna while another set of workers blocked a railway track in Patna’s Rajendra Nagar Terminal railway station. Six political parties, including the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), have extended their support to bandh called by the Congress.
Congress workers carried out protests in Bhubaneswar as part of the bandh and blocked trains at Sambhalpur in Odisha. The East Coast Railway Zone has cancelled 12 trains including Bhubaneswar-Howrah Jan Shatabdi Express and Bhubaneswar-Visakhapatnam Inter City Express.
In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, workers of the pro-bandh parties held marches, staged sit-ins and forced closure of shops in Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam and in Telangana’s Bhongir in Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district and Musheerabad bus depot in Hyderabad.
In the BJP-ruled Assam, the bandh hit the normal life. Congress workers tried to stop movement of trains by squatting on the railway tracks and tried to block national highways and main roads across the state by burning tyres and setting up bamboo barricades. Tens of agitators were picked up from various places in the state for blocking roads and attempting to shut shops but they were released later. (With inputs from agencies)
The bandh evoked mixed response in Gujarat. Over 300 Congress functionaries were detained across the state, including state party chief Amit Chavda and Gujarat party in-charge Rajiv Satav from Lal
In Uttar Pradesh, Congress staged demonstrations and held marches in Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Varanasi and Agra. In Lucknow, chief of the Uttar Pradesh unit of Congress, Raj Babbar said the BJP government was not concerned about the sufferings of the common man and only cared for the rights of a few influential people.
In Madhya Pradesh, bandh activists carried out rallies and held protests outside commercial establishments and fuel pumps that were open. While the MP Congress called the shutdown successful, the ruling BJP accused the former of adopting "anarchic" ways to intimidate people to enforce the bandh.
In West Bengal, where the ruling Trinamool Congress backed the protest but opposed bandh, Congress and Left front workers took protest marches across the state. Almost all schools and colleges were open with the scheduled examinations underway and the office-goers were seen rushing to office. Train services were also normal.
The bandh evoked mixed response in BJP ruled Madhya Pradesh, Chatisgarh and Rajasthan.
Image Credit: NDTV