The issue of fuel price hike has brought almost the entire opposition together with the BJP-led NDA and Left parties giving a call for a nation-wide strike on July 5 demanding a rollback.
The NDA and the Left parties made separate announcements in this regard and JD-U chief Sharad Yadav claimed that it was the first such instance of opposition unity after the "JP movement" in the mid-seventies.
"There has been no difference among the entire opposition on the issue of fuel price hike. Every party has condemned it and demanded a rollback," Yadav, who is the NDA convenor, told reporters.
His call for a 12-hour 'Bharat Bandh' came hours after the Left and non-BJP opposition parties called a 12-hour nation-wide strike on July five to protest the government's decision to increase the prices of petroleum products. All essential services like supply of water, milk, electricity, hospital and emergency services will be exempt from the 'hartal', they said.
Several opposition parties have already declared that they would raise the issue vociferously in Parliament with the monsoon session expected to commence by July-end.
"Check prices or leave the chair (Dam roko ya gaddi chhoro), Price Rise affects all communities (Hindu Muslim Sikh Isai, sabke ghar me hai mahangai," will be the Opposition's slogans during the agitation, Yadav said.
He said an effort for a joint protest by the Opposition over the fuel price hike was made during budget session of Parliament in March this year, but it could not materialise.
Besides the four Left parties, the AIADMK, TDP, Samajwadi Party, BJD, JD(S) and INLD "have decided to call for a country-wide hartal on July five", a joint statement by top leaders of CPI(M), CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc said here.
Yadav, who made efforts for the entire opposition to come together for the bandh, downplayed non-inclusion of his party's name as also that of NDA in the Left parties' statement on the strike.
"There are so many internal contradictions in the country. But the issue of fuel price hike is a very serious issue. People's interest come before parties...It was necessary for all parties to come together so that people can express their anger over the issue," Yadav said.
The Left leaders have said they were in discussions with some other "secular opposition" parties to join the hartal, which will be held from 0600 hours to 1800 hours.
However, there is no word from RJD, LJP and BSP so far on whether they would join this Bharat Bandh on July 5 or not. Yadav said CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav were talking to RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan over the issue. Incidentally, both Paswan and Prasad have already announced agitation over the issue on a different day.
Sharad Yadav said he has held talks with BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, Prakash Karat, CPI leader A B Bardhan, AIADMK chief Jayalalitha, Mulayam, JDS President HD Devegowda, PMK chief Ramdoss, Indian National Lok Dal President O P Chautala, Akali Dal leader Prakash Singh Badal, BJD chief Naveen Patnaik and Shiv Sena Executive President Uddhav Thackeray.
Attacking the Centre over the hike, Yadav said that the government has ignored the county's interests and handed over it "to the market".
Yadav's remarks came after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rejected the Opposition's criticism of the government's decision to hike fuel prices, saying the move to free petrol and diesel rates was "much-needed" reforms and that there should be no "excessive populism".
The JD(U) chief had earlier said, "Government is under a false impression that the opposition is divided and hence, it can do whatever it likes. The Centre's notion about any division in the opposition should be dispelled." PTI