The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) called for a Bharat Bandh (nationwide shutdown) next Thursday against the steep increase in petrol prices.
L.K. Advani, NDA's acting chairman and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, made the announcement at the party's two-day national executive meet in the city yesterday. He said: "In the history of the country, there has never been such steep rise on a single day in the price of petrol.
"To protest against this arbitrary hike, the NDA has decided to organise a day-long peaceful protest, including a bandh in the entire country on May 31." He also appealed to the people to make the shutdown successful.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, whose party is a member of the NDA, demanded a rollback on Wednesday's price hike with a united opposition. His party activists in Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur called for a shutdown to protest against the price rise.
Thackeray said in his party pamphlet Saamna yesterday, "The Shiv Sena and NDA will start a nationwide movement against this hike. Even a call for Bharat Bandh on the issue will be acceptable."
He regretted that the public had voted the United Progressive Alliance government to power even though it had increased petrol prices 16 times in the last three years.
"People should now wake up and bury the Congress. All opposition parties should unite and display public angst," he said. "The price hike has broken the back of the common man, but petrol is filled in the cars of Sonia Gandhi and her ministers with government funds. The common man has to buy everything on his own," he said.
The Sena's call for a shutdown in Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur received a spontaneous response with traders and ordinary people joining the protests in Sangli. With the petrol price going up to Rs78.58 (Dh5.10) from Rs70.66 per litre in Mumbai the burden on people's travel expenses is being stretched too far, say consumers. In rural Sangli the price now stands at Rs77 per litre and in urban areas it has risen to Rs80.
Government-owned petroleum companies on Wednesday announced a price hike of Rs7.50 per litre, the steepest in ten years, justifying it by the falling rupee which has increased the cost of imports and crude oil on the international market.
There were indications yesterday that the government may announce a rollback of Rs2 to Rs2.50 per litre in a day or two.
The timing of the hike caught everyone by surprise as it came within days of the budget session of parliament and the UPA government completing three years in office in its second tenure. The governments in two Congress party-ruled states, Uttarakhand and Kerala, have already announced relief.
Petrol will now be Rs1.63 cheaper in Kerala and Rs1.87 cheaper in Uttarakhand. More Congress party governments are expected to follow.
The state governments used to get between Rs10-Rs19 per litre on every litre of petrol sold while the central government pocketed Rs15.59 in taxes and this is likely to increase.
A pattern seems to be emerging wherein petrol prices are first increased and the government announces a partial rollback to show its concern for the consumers who still end up paying more.
The steep rise in petrol price in India has managed to trigger reactions and jokes from Bollywood celebrities to the common user on Twitterverse. Here's a selection of some of the tweets:
Amitabh Bachchan: Petrol up Rs7.5: Pump attendant - "Kitne ka daloon ?"! Mumbaikar - ‘2-4 rupye ka car ke upar spray kar de bhai, jalana hai!!
[Translation: Petrol up Rs7.5: Petrol pump attendant: How much petrol do you want? Mumbai resident: spray some worth Rs2-4 on the car; just want to burn it down!!]
Kunal Kapoor: Petrol is up to 78 rs per litre! Forget cars, banks need to come up with EMI schemes for petrol as well now!
Boman Irani: Another petrol price hike!!! Thankfully the ticket prices of ‘Ferrari Ki Sawaari' will still cost the same.
Gul Panag: Petrol becomes more expensive, again. May be its time to improve public transportation and seriously develop alternate sources of energy.
Divya Dutta: Every one seems to be filling petrol! Rs.7.50 hike?? Can we all get back to bicycles please? It's getting worse!
[email protected]: I have just opened a fixed deposit of 30litres of #petrol
Prateek Jemini @iampt: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari knew about the petrol price hike!
Vivek Mishra @iVivekHr: #Petrol: we have the world's cheapest car and the world's costliest petrol
@prashanthbhat: Opposition parties don`t have to call for a bandh [strike] against hike in #petrol prices. People will anyway stay indoors tomorrow onwards!