Bharat Bandh called by the NDA couldn't come at a most opportune time. The bandh call has evoked some mixed reactions from various states soon after it was announced by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance over the government reforms like the FDI in multi-brand retail and the steep diesel price hike.
The bandh kicked off with some dramatic scenes in Uttar Pradesh when Samajwadi Party workers stopped trains in Allahabad. BJP and JD(U) workers halted trains in Varanasi and Patna as well.
In an effort to make the bandh a success, the BJP leaders are making no stone unturned by going to different parts of the country to lead the protest. Sushma Swaraj will be in Bhopal, Nitin Gadkari in Delhi, Rajnath Singh in Lucknow and Venkaiah Naidu in Hyderabad to stoke the public's ire for the stiff anti-people policies. With the key UPA ally DMK also offering their support to the bandh in Tamil Nadu, the matter has caused much headache to the UPA.
In Mumbai, the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) opted to stay out of the bandh on account of the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities and claimed that they will not enforce the bandh. Reports suggest that the state govt announced that it would be business as usual for people in Maharashtra with no impact of the bandh.
Samajwadi party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav along with former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and some Left leaders revved up hopes for a possible Third Front by calling a separate bandh. The leaders will protest in Delhi. There are reports that the PM's effigy was burnt in UP.
With the BJP ruled states expected to experience the maximum impact of the bandh, states like Gujarat and Karnataka will see a complete shutdown. But initial reports suggest that the response has been sort of lukewarm in Karnataka with auto rickshaws plying as usual and some buses keeping off the roads. Schools and colleges have chosen to remain shut for the bandh.
Secretary General of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) Praveen Khandelwal has been quoted as saying, "There will be no commercial activity across the country. Traders in different cities will take out protest marches and demonstrations." As many as 5 crore traders and 25,000 trade associations are taking part in this bandh demanding rollback of FDI in multi-brand retail.
Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal has warned that her government would not allow forcible enforcement of the bandh called by the CPI(M). Both the Trinamool Congress and AIADMK government have chosen to stay away from the bandh.
In Assam, on the other hand, the government would enforce pay cut, break in service and disciplinary action against employees who do not report for work during 'Bharat Bandh'.
BJP leaders will also reportedly carry out a march to the Prime Minister's house and may court arrest. Among the parties that are supporting the bandh include BJP, JD(U), Samajwadi Party, DMK and CPI(M)-led Left Front; while those against it include Trinamool Congress, BSP, Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJMM), MNS and Shiv Sena.