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Opposition calls for nationwide strike July 5 (Roundup)

New Delhi, June 29 (IANS) The entire opposition Tuesday called for an India-wide shutdown July 5 against rising prices and the fuel price hike, marking the first unified showdown with the government since the Congress returned to power last year.

With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stoutly defending last week’s hike in prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies as well as a range of non-BJP parties decided to make common cause.

Both camps made separate but similar announcements of the shutdown after Janata Dal-United president Sharad Yadav appealed to all parties to pick a single day for their nationwide protest.

Yadav told IANS that he had spoken to leaders of various parties regarding the proposed Bharat Bandh.

He said he contacted leaders of the AIADMK, PMK, Telugu Desam Party (TPD), Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Samajwadi Party, Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Akali Dal, Shiv Sena and BJP.

The BJP said it supported Yadav’s proposal.

‘July 5 will be observed as an all-India bandh by NDA (National Democratic Alliance),’ BJP spokesman Tarun Vijay said.

The party said prices of food and other essentials were rising unabated, and the recent hike in petroleum prices had further added to the burden of the common man.

The Left parties earlier announced a dawn-to-dusk shutdown and said they had the support of several parties including the AIADMK, TDP, BJD, the Samajwadi Party and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).

In Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK said the strike would be supported by several regional parties including the MDMK and PMK.

The Left parties accused the government of dishing out deceptive arguments to justify the hike in fuel prices.

The statement said that only essential services like water and milk supply, electricity, hospitals and emergency services would be exempt from the strike call, indicating that July 5 would cripple the country.

The central government Friday ended government curbs on petroleum pricing and hiked the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas.

The prices of diesel went up by Rs.2 a litre, kerosene by Rs.3 a litre, cooking gas by Rs.35 per cylinder and petrol by Rs.3.50 a litre. Manmohan Singh has said the decision was in national interest.

‘This government is anti-people and anti-poor,’ AIADMK leader D. Maiteyan told IANS on telephone from Chennai. ‘The decision to increase fuel prices is totally unacceptable.’

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