Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee took to the streets on Saturday with the warning that her party would take ‘hard’ decisions at the end of the 72-hour deadline set by her party if the UPA government did not scrap FDI in retail, diesel price hike and limit on subsidised LPG.
“We have called a party meeting on Tuesday to discuss these issues. If the Centre does not roll back the hike in diesel price and withdraw decisions on FDI in multi-brand retail and curbs on LPG, we will take decisions, however hard they may be. I hope the people will not misunderstand,” Banerjee, who hit the streets here for a second time after the May petrol price hike, told a rally.
Expressing surprise over the government’s sudden big ticket reforms, Banerjee said, “I don’t know what happened. So many decisions were taken on a single day. We want economic reforms that reach the grassroots, not something that benefits a section. These are anti-people decisions.”
Banerjee, the West Bengal chief minister, however, said her party would not like to topple the UPA government.
“We are not in favour of quitting the government. We are always in favour of not breaking the alliance. But we are committed to the people.”
Banerjee said “We are the second largest ally of the UPA and we could have got more cabinet berths. We have now only the Railway ministry but that hardly matters to us. What matters to us are the people.”
Meanwhile, the Samajwadi Party, TDP, BJD, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and the Left called for nationwide protests on September 20 against the government’s new round of economic reforms. In what could turn out to be the seeds of a possible Third Front, leaders of eight parties called for “hartals, picketing, demonstrations and court arrest programmes” that day.
“Let us all unite to stop these measures which will further burden the people and ruin their livelihood,” a statement released jointly by these leaders said. All the parties accused the UPA government of striking cruel blows on the people one after another. The statement was signed by Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party), H.D. Deve Gowda (JD-S), Prakash Karat (CPI-M), S. Sudhakar Reddy (CPI), Naveen Patnaik (BJD), N. Chandrababu Naidu (TPD), Debabrata Biswas (Forward Bloc) and T.J. Chandrachoodan (RSP). The statement accused the Congress-led UPA government of striking “cruel blows on the people one after another.
“It has raised the price of diesel by `5 per litre, stoking price rise and burdening the farmers. “It has limited the subsidised gas cylinder per family to six and the rest will have to be bought at the market price which is more than double. “It has opened the multi-brand retail trade to foreign supermarket chains, endangering the livelihood of more than four crore people occupied 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 appealed to people, farmers, workers, women, youths, transporters, shopkeepers, traders’ organisations and “patriotic people” to join the “struggle” against the new round of economic reforms.
The BJP-led NDA will also hold a country-wide protest on September 20 protesting against the central government’s decision to hike diesel price and allow FDI in multi-brand retail. Announcing the alliance’s decision in New Delhi, BJP leader LK Advani said “NDA today decided to hold a nation-wide strike on 20th of this month. I am sure that the suffocation felt by the people for a long time is about to come to an end.” Addressing the press with Sushma Swaraj and other senior leaders of the coalition, he said “it would be prudent and wise for the government itself to decide that they do not wait till 2014 for the people to give their opinion about the UPA government. Let them call for an early election. Let the people make a decision.” Stating that the government should be allowed to rethink over all its acts, the BJP leader said “if they are able to do that on their own by giving resignation— the Lok Sabha elections are also due shortly—I think it will be fine.” He said no political party’s consent was taken by the government before making these announcements. “They have not consulted any political party and chief minister and have announced this suddenly.