New Delhi/Kolkata, Sept 20 (IBNS): India came to a partial halt on Thursday as a daylong nationwide strike called by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and other Left and non-Congress parties evoked mixed response while it crippled normal life in most non-Congress states.
The nationwide strike, including a 12 hour shutdown by the Left in West Bengal, was called to protest the centre´s FDI policy, LPG subsidy reduction and hike in diesel price.
While national leaders courted arrest and many were detailed, the strike also triggered some untoward violent incidents in West Bengal.
Protesters took to streets across India as train services were hit badly from blockades while few public transport was seen on the streets in most states and their capital cities.
Shops, schools and office establishments were closed in many states.
The bandh was more forceful in BJP ruled states like Gujarat and Karnataka.
In national capital Delhi, the bandh supporters from parties like BJP protested at Jantar Mantar while 82,000 policemen were deployed to maintain law and order.
Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and several Left leaders on Thursday courted arrest in New Delhi as they protested against the reforms.
Several Left leaders like Prakash Karat, AB Bardhan and Sitaram Yechury courted arrest in the national capital too.
According to reports, Telugu Desham Party supremo Chandrababu Naidu also courted arrest in New Delhi.
Mulayam had held a separate protest at New Delhi´s Jantar Mantar in order to avoid sharing stage with BJP leaders.
Addressing a gathering, Mulayam slammed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and said it is taking ´anti-people´ stand.
At Jantar Mantar BJP president Nitin Gadkari addressed a gathering and slammed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and its policies.
Gadkari later called the strike a ´historic´ one.
"We got unprecedented response. It is a historic bandh," Gadkari said while addressing a press conference on Thursday.
"I hope Soniaji and the PM will now roll back on the hike in diesel price, and increase gas cylinder subsidy and review its FDI policy," Gadkari said.
"The government should heed to the response to the strike nationwide and act," he said.
Several top BJP leaders were detained in Patna when they were protesting in the streets.
According to reports, BJP leaders like CP Thakur and Ravi Shankar Prasad were detained.
"Today we have hit the streets to protest against the Centre´s policy," Prasad told reporters as he walked in a march in Patna.
Several other opposition leaders were also detained by the police in Bihar´s capital Patna.
In Uttar Pradesh and its capital Lucknow ruled by the Samajwadi Party, the strike hit the commuters and trains were stopped by protesters at various places.
Shops were closed and roads were deserted in Lucknow. Trains were stopped in Mathura, Agra, Varanasi, Allahabad and Lucknow.
The Agra-Gwalior Highway traffic was disrupted by BJP protest as well.
The opposition Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), however, stayed away from the protest.
Life was hit in West Bengal owing to a 12-hour shutdown called by the Left parties like the CPI-M while the BJP supporters hit the streets as well and even clashed with the ruling Trinamool Congress activists.
Violence broke out in parts of West Bengal with unsavoury incidents reported from Cooch Behar.
In Cooch Behar in north Bengal, alleged Trinamool Congress supporters were caught on TV footage beating up supporters, including women activists, of SUCI (Socialist Unity Centre of India), a communist party outside the Left Front group.
A red flag waving SUCI activist trying to stop a bus from plying in Cooch Behar town was seen being assaulted and removed from the road by men waving Trinamool party flags who cleared the road for the vehicles.
BJP alleged that their supporters were attacked by the Trinamool Congress in Howrah and near airport in Kolkata.
Few private buses were plying in the streets of Kolkata as office goers waited for hours though the Mamata Banerjee government tried to run the state run buses.
Train services, especially the suburban networks, were hit in various places owing to blockades on the tracks by the strike supporters.
In Barasat near Kolkata, vehicles were damaged by bandh supporters as panic stricken commuters rushed out of a government bus that was attacked with stones.
Both BJP and the left parties like the CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) took out processions across the state.
BJP national leaders like Vijay Goel also participated in anti-hike and FDI march in Kolkata.
Later, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who pulled out of the UPA government over the reforms and said the issues of the bandh were valid, said she was against such strike and there was 88 to 89 percent attendance in government offices.
"There was unprecedented attendance. Overall attendance of government workers was 88-89 pct today. Bengal can show the rest of nation that work culture is returning to Kolkata," Mamata said.
"Today´s bandh was a total failure in West Bengal. We are thankful to people of Bengal who did not support the bandh," she said.
In Karnataka capital Bangalore, the IT industry suffered owing to the strike. There were few buses on the streets in the BJP ruled state´s capital.
BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa said the strike was successful in Karnataka.
The former Karnataka Chief Minister said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should quit immediately.
India´s financial hub Mumbai, life was however not much hit. Owing to Ganesh Chaturthi festival, the opposition parties like the Sena groups and BJP did not disrupt life.
In Chennai, the ruling AIADMK did not participate in the strike and so life was not much affected.
DMK, an ally of UPA, however supported the strike in Tamil Nadu.
The Congress, however, slammed the Opposition over the strike.
Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the strike caused ´economic loss´.
"I think if you are protesting against a decision on economy then it should not be done in a way that causes economic losses," Chidambaram told reporters.
Chidambaram said the UPA government has enough friends and there is no reason to doubt its ´stability´.
"We could acquire new friends too," he added.
The Union Cabinet on Friday approved 51% FDI in single-brand product retail trading after amending certain conditions in the policy.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs also relaxed rules for FDI in the aviation sector, allowing international airlines to invest upto 49 percent in domestic airline firms.
On Thursday, the central government hiked the price of diesel by Rs 5 per litre and restricted sales of subsidised LPG cylinders to six per consumer every year, in a bid to rein in the nation's ballooning fiscal deficit but dealing a blow to innumerable households.
In protest the Trinamool Congress, which was the second biggest constituent after Congress in UPA, pulled out of the government reducing it to minority.