Partial response to BJP strike against price rise


New Delhi : Eight days ahead of the Karnataka elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sought to extract mileage from the widespread discontent over rising food prices and organised a nationwide strike Friday as inflation hit a 42-month high of 7.57 percent. But the response was muted except for some areas though the party claimed it was a success.

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“The strike has been a success. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government should either get rid of price rise or step down,” said BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar.

The strategy of the BJP and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners was simple — to shut down shops and commercial establishments and form human chains to draw attention of the ruling Congress at the centre to the steep rise in prices and spiralling inflation.

“The central government is unable to control inflation and hence in the next general elections it will be defeated,” BJP leader L.K. Advani declared at a rally in Anekal, about 40 km from the Karnataka capital Bangalore. Hoping to make the most of the opportunity in the state, Advani addressed three rallies.

In New Delhi, the response to the strike was half-hearted. Even though the party said shops were closed in prominent markets like Sarojini Nagar and Karol Bagh, that was not the case. Some shops may have been closed, but it was business as usual otherwise.

States ruled by the BJP and the NDA observed the strike in pockets while activists of the BJP and the Bajrang Dal forced closure of shops in some places by pelting stones and ransacking them.

In BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, the protest was most successful in the state capital Raipur, which saw deserted streets and shops as well as petrol pumps. Offices were closed.

There were also reports of BJP workers carrying batons forcing shopkeepers to down shutters in Raipur’s commercial areas like Malviya Nagar. In the rest of the state, however, the response was lacklustre and life continued much the same.

The strike was also a success in Himachal Pradesh, where the BJP came to power four months ago. Most shops and establishments remained closed till the afternoon in Shimla, the state capital. They however resumed business later in the day.

The party scored a hit in the Left-ruled state of Kerala, which has a strong Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) presence. The dawn-to-dusk action affected normal life in the state as all vehicles, except a few private ones, kept off the roads. Most shops remained closed and government offices reported thin attendance.

Business in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana was unaffected . Shopkeepers suspended transactions for a few hours in Punjab, ruled by the Akali Dal, an ally of the NDA.

In Bhopal, the capital of BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, business was going on as usual till activists of the BJP and the Bajrang Dal forced shops to close down. A few shops in the New Market locality were attacked with BJP workers pelting stones at shops that were open.

In the old city area, it was virtually a hide and seek game between the trading community and the pro-strike activists. The shops had to be closed at least twice till 3 p.m.

Road and rail transport however continued to ply as usual. Schools and colleges remained open – so did banks and offices.

In Chennai, over 40 BJP workers including former union minister Pon Radhakrishnan were arrested for inciting arson. More than 30 buses were damaged, their window panes smashed.

Most of the action was confined to Kanyakumari district, a BJP stronghold where the party cadres held up traffic and stoned passing vehicles and commercial establishments. Workers of the BJP and the ruling DMK clashed with each other.

In Mumbai, a rally was held though life was normal. In West Bengal, the party said human chains were formed in 256 places.