West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress (TMC) is the second biggest constituent of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, on Saturday took to the streets to demonstrate against a steep hike in diesel prices and the Central government's sweeping reforms on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policies.
Mamata arrived at central Kolkata´s Subodh Mullick Square at around 4 pm to lead thousands of her party supporters, who were seen carrying party flags and banners that condemned the policy of New Delhi.
The TMC supremo was accompanied by senior party leaders, central ministers and lawmakers as they started to walk nearly 2 km.
Railway Minister and TMC leader Mukul Roy also walked with Mamata.
Several women leaders of the party were seen on the forefront of the march with the Chief Minister wearing like aprons huge posters slamming the diesel hike and FDI policy.
"We will never accept them hike" read a banner of the party.
The marchers shouted slogans against the policies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh government.
Mamata on Saturday slammed the UPA government´s decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail and said reforms did not mean selling out everything ´to satisfy some sections of individuals´.
She made the comments a day after her TMC said it might take a strong step if within 72 hours the government did not reverse its decisions on FDI policy and diesel price hike.
"Yes, we need reforms. But reform does not mean to sell out everything to satisfy some sections of individuals. In a democratic set up, reforms must reach upto the poor and common people and the beauty of democracy lies on realizing its responsibility towards the common people," Mamata posted on her Facebook page on Saturday.
"Developed countries have many social security schemes. In our country, we do not have elaborate social security schemes or safety valve mechanism for protection of the interest of the common people," she said.
"A series of unilateral and anti-people decisions might help in raising Sensex points only for the time being. I agree that Sensex must be stable, but at the same time, policy and planning should not be used to impose back-breaking burden on the common people," Mamata said.
Mamata said if black money is brought back from abroad, the Sensex will automatically grow.
"If black money is unearthed in the country, and brought back home from abroad and are used for development purposes, then Sensex will grow in an unparalleled manner," said the CM.
Mamata said her party would ´fight for the cause of the common people´.
"I do not support any decision to sell out everything. This might suit one section of the government. We are determined to fight for the cause of the common people and we can sacrifice our lives but cannot compromise on it," she said.
Railway Minister and TMC leader Mukul Roy, when asked if there is a climb down on their stand, told IBNS: "We have not changed our stand at all. Our stand on FDI policy of the government in aviation, retail and diesel price hike remains the same."
He denied reports in a section of media that the TMC has agreed to climb down on some issues.
Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh said just pulling out support might deviate the attention from the diesel price hike and FDI policies to other issues and it can lead to horse trading of MPs.
He said for the party all options are open and on Tuesday they would decide their course of action.
The Union Cabinet on Friday approved 51% FDI in single-brand product retail trading after amending certain conditions in the policy.
"The Cabinet has approved the proposal of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion for amendment of the existing policy on Foreign Direct Investment in Single-Brand Product Retail Trading," read an official statement.
The government had permitted FDI, up to 100%, in single brand product retail trading, subject to specified conditions
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.