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The ‘Bharat bandh’, called by all major non-UPA parties to protest against the ever-increasing prices of essential commodities and recent fuel price hike, started at 0600 hrs today.

”We are protesting against the UPA Government’s decision to deregularise fuel prices. The bandh has been called for the people, so that they can register their protest against the government,” said a Delhi BJP leader.

The impact of the 12 hour-long bandh was minimal in the morning as DTC buses, autos and other private vehicles were plying on the roads normally.

The bandh is expected to show its impact as the day progresses.

Taking precautionary measures the Delhi government has deployed police personnel and commandos at all important establishments.

Several dharnas and demonstrations are to be organised by the state BJP to register its protest against the rising prices.

BJP national president Nitin Gadkari, party’s senior leader Rajnath Singh, JD(U) president Sharad Yadav and senior Akali Dal leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa would participate in the agitation.

The Left parties, including CPI(M), CPI, AIFB and RSP, along with AIADMK, Telugu Desam Party, Samajwadi Party, Biju Janata Dal, Janata Dal(S) and Indian National Lok Dalhave, have also appealed to all sections of the society to participate in the nation-wide ‘hartal’ to register their protest against the recent hike in fuel prices which would put further burden on people.

The BJP has sent its senior leaders out to various state capitals to lead demonstrations and protest marches.

According to party sources, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj will lead a protest in Bhopal, while Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi will lead in Lucknow.

Venkaiah Naidu will lead in Hyderabad, Ananth Kumar in Bangalore, Gopinath Munde in Mumbai and Vasundhara Raje in Jaipur.

Termed as ”opposition unity”, the bandh will target all services except healthcare and railways.

The BJP has even asked school managements and parents to refrain from sending their children to school.

The CPI(M) accused the Congress-led Government at the Centre of being directly responsible for the rise in food prices.

”The deregulation of prices are meant to help the private oil companies and put the people at the mercy of a market-controlled by the multinational oil companies and the domestic corporates,” the party Politburo said.

”By these steps, the Congress-led government is directly responsible for the spiralling price rise of food items and essential commodities,” it added.

”This powerful all India protest action should serve as a warning to the government not to heap burdens on the people and to withdraw the price hike measures,” the party said.

Meanwhile, the government has termed the bandh as ”totally unjustified” and claimed that the price hike of petroleum products has minimal impact on the common man.

Petroleum Minister Murli Deora said the Opposition was misleading the people as these parties had been instrumental in notifying the deregulation of the prices of petroleum products and reducing subsidies in November 1997 and in implementing the programme from April 2002.

”Therefore, Bandh call is not only unjustified but also against the interest of common man and daily wage earners who could be deprived of their wages, besides causing inconvenience to the public at large,” he said.

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