Normal life was disrupted in several parts of the country during the ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by a combined Opposition on Monday in protest against fuel price hike with the greatest impact felt in NDA and Left-ruled states and Maharashtra.
Sporadic incidents of violence in which buses and trains were targeted and clashes with police who baton charged the protestors were reported during the day-long nation-wide strike.
Several top NDA leaders including BJP president Nitin Gadkari, his colleagues Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and JD(U) Chief Sharad Yadav courted arrest while leading protest rallies in Delhi and Lucknow.
CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat and CPI’s top brass — A.B. Bardhan and D.Raja —also courted arrest during the bandh in a show of strength by the opposition trying to make common cause on the price rise issue to corner the Congress.
Security personnel were out in full strength to ensure there was no major law and order problem while hundreds of bandh suppoters were taken into preventive custody.
Banking operations largely remained unaffected.
Mr. Jaitley and CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat claimed the bandh was an “unprecedented success“.
“This protest has been widely supported by the average common man because he is really the target of the government’s policies,” Mr. Jaitley said.
Scores of flights were grounded in commercial airline hubs such as Mumbai and Kolkata while protesters attacked buses and trains, blocked roads with burning tyres and organised sit-down protests on key road intersections and inter-city railway links. Several trains were also forcibly stopped.
Schools, colleges and business establishments remained closed as groups of protestors hit streets trying to enforce the 12-hour bandh in some cities.
Life was thrown out of gear in NDA-ruled Bihar, Gujarat, Orissa, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttrakhand and Himachal Pradesh while it was a shutdown in Left-ruled West Bengal and Kerala. There was also a disruption of road and rail traffic.
Several IT firms closed shop in Bangalore as a precautionary measure.
Normal life was also hit in Congress-NCP ruled Maharashtra — mainly in Mumbai and Pune — while the bandh had a lukewarm response in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Haryana where the UPA is in power.
The bandh did not evoke much response in the national capital barring in some areas where BJP and Left activists blocked road and rail traffic and forcibly shut shops.
Buses, autos and private vehicles were on the roads since morning while offices reported more than average attendance.
However, Metro commuters faced some hardships as BJP workers organised protests at some stations, including the busy Rajiv Chowk.
Services at the Inter-State Bus Terminals at Anand Vihar and Kashmere Gate here were also affected during the morning hours with BJP workers blocking its entrances.
“Wrong economic policies and bad governance of the government are the basic reasons of price rise,” Mr. Gadkari said addressing a rally at Chandni Chowk area here.
Lorries parked at EB Road in Tiruchi on Monday, as part of the nation-wide bandh called by opposition parties against fuel price hike. Photo: M. Moorthy
BJP activists squatting on the tracks as part of the Bharat Bandh in Nalgonda on Monday. Photo: Singam Venkataramana
Rashtriya Mahila Brigade activists sit on a railway track in protest against the rise in fuel prices during the Bharat Bandh in Patna. Photo: PTI