Congress plans Opposition protest against Modi govt over rising prices
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said that if the government does not reduce fuel prices immediately, the party will launch nationwide protests and also hold a joint rally on the issue.
After having focused its attention on the Rafale deal, unemployment and agrarian distress, the Congress is now planning a nationwide protest by all Opposition parties against rising prices, in the backdrop of sky-rocketing fuel prices.
Dates for the agitation, and the shape it will take, will be decided at a meeting of Congress general secretaries, those in charge of overseeing state units, and state party chiefs on September 6, a senior Congress functionary familiar with the developments said on condition of anonymity. Once finalised, he said, senior Congress leaders will talk to all Opposition parties and try to take them on board.
On record, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said that if the government does not reduce fuel prices immediately, the party will launch nationwide protests and also hold a joint rally on the issue. “We will hit streets over the hike… There will be nationwide and elaborate protests from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.”
A meeting has been called to give a final shape to the agitation programme,” he said.
Consumer price inflation in July rose 4.17% compared with the same month a year ago, declining from a five-month high of 4.9% in June, according to data from the Central Statistics Office.
Yet, there are concerns over the potential cascading effect of rising petrol and diesel prices on overall. Fuel prices increased for the tenth consecutive day on Tuesday. Led by a spike in global crude oil prices and the depreciating rupee, the prices of petrol and diesel have surged to record highs.
The Congress aims to build a narrative around the price rise in a manner similar to what the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had done before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Congress leaders argue that the common people could be hit hard by the increase in fuel prices given that they have a spiraling effect on the rates of the essential commodities.
The Congress has also asked its frontal organisations to gear up for the nationwide agitation. Youth Congress workers, led by their chief Keshav Chand Yadav, on Tuesday staged a protest against the “highest ever fuel prices” in Delhi outside the office of the petroleum and natural gas ministry.
Besides, the Youth Congress and youth wings of 11 opposition parties on Tuesday formed a united front to launch nationwide protests against the government over several issues, including price rises, unemployment and demonetisation.
Apart from the Youth Congress, the front will comprise the youth wings of the Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Rashtrawadi Congress, All India Muslim League, All India Forward Bloc, Democratic Youth Federation, Communist Party of India (Marxist) Youth Federation, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Janata Dal (Secular).
So far, the Congress had been focused on alleged irregularities in the deal to purchase French-made Rafale military aircraft, unemployment, alleged bank scams and agrarian distress. It has now decided to widen the scope to inflation .
The party has decided to weave its campaign around these issues hoping these will hurt the BJP’s electoral prospects not only in the four states where assembly polls will be held in November-December this year, but also the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha too has come down heavily on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government over the “unprecedented” fuel price increase. The party said fuel prices had gone beyond control as the NDA government “failed to take concrete steps” to tackle the situation. In a statement, the BJD said it would hold a statewide agitation for three days from September 7 to 9 in protest against the rise in fuel prices.
Political observers say that it is too early to predict if the price rise could reap electoral dividends for the Congress as had been the case with the BJP in 2014, but maintained that it was imperative for the opposition party to flag he issue.
“The Congress cannot afford to avoid raising the price rise issue. It has no option but to take it up and if they don’t they will be missing a point. All sections of the people are affected due to price rise. The party that raises…the concerns of the common people will stand to gain,” said N Bhaskara Rao, a Delhi-based political analyst and founder chairman of the Centre for Media Studies (CMS), a not-for-profit think-tank.