Updates: Bharath Bandh evokes mixed response; to cost economy Rs 12500 crore

Last Updated: Thu, Sep 20, 2012 14:21 hrs

0730 pm: The Bharath Bandh that ended on Thursday evening crippled normal life in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam and Tripura.

Shops and businesses in these states were almost universally shut. Rail and road transport was also badly hit, inconveniencing millions.

Thursday's protest was led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Left and the Samajwadi Party. BJP's main ally Shiv Sena stayed out citing Ganesh Chaturthi.

In Tamil Nadu, even Congress ally DMK joined the show.

But life there and elsewhere in India, including Delhi, was near normal although Left as well as NDA activists organised noisy rallies in all major cities.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) estimated that the Indian economy lost Rs 12500 crore ($2.25 billion) Thursday because of pan-India work stoppage (detailed report below).

0700 pm:
It's final. Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said her party has sought an appointment with President Pranab Mukherjee Friday to submit their letter of withdrawal of support from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime.

"We have already sought an appointment with the president to submit our letter (of withdrawal of support). If we get an appointment tomorrow (Friday) then we will submit it tomorrow itself, and if we don't get an appointment then we will ask for next appointment. We have said Friday means Friday," Mamata said, while addressing reporters.

"We have already taken the decision and announced it. Tomorrow our (union) ministers will submit their resignations (to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) and we want to submit the letter (of withdrawal) to president tomorrow itself," she said.

05:00 pm:
India will be flooded with Chinese products if foreign direct investment (FDI) pours into multi-brand retail, BJP president Nitin Gadkari has said.

"Products will come from there (China). It will end businesses of small traders. There is a perception that the decision (to allow FDI in retail) has been taken under foreign pressure," Gadkari observed.

The BJP president said his party hasn't considered bringing a no-confidence vote against the UPA-II government yet.

04:40 pm: The Bharath Bandh, earliest estimates say, will cause a loss of Rs 12500 crore (US $2.25 billion) to the Indian economy

"Today's bandh (strike) has been disruptive for business and trade in many parts of the country. While an exact loss for the entire economy is not known, it can be estimated that almost Rs 12,500 crore has been the loss to the country in terms of disruptions in production and trade," , the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said on Thursday.

04:30 pm: Mamata Banerjee is one happy lady. And guess why?

"89% of government workers have turned up (to work in West Bengal) today. It's a record attendance. So many people don't come in normal days. This shows our work culture and the respect we have for businesses and the economy," the West Bengal Chief Minister, who opposed the Bharath Bandh saying bandhs had ruined West Bengal, was reported as saying.

Meanwhile, an UPA-II insider termed Mamata's moves against the central government as "casino politics". "When you are playing blind, at times you win the jackpot or you lose it all," he added.

The Bengal Congress unit has apparently already been instructed to withdraw support and pull out ministers from the West Bengal government as soon as the Trinamool ministers quit on Friday.

0330 pm:
Chidambaram says Thursday's nation-wide strike has hit the Indian economy and the common people hard.

"In a democracy you have the right to protest against the government's policies. But it's rather ironic that the form of protests you are doing will cause great economic losses," he said.

"Wage earners can't earn their wages...in some factories wages have to be paid but there is no production," the finance minister added.

0300 pm:
Finance Minister P Chidambaram feels the UPA II government has enough friends.

"We have enough friends today, we had enough friends yesterday… and so I don't see any reason why we should doubt our stability... And if we acquire new friends, why should we not do so," he said.

He said this when asked of the crisis looming before the government once Trinamool Congress, with its 19 MPs, quits the UPA coalition on Friday.

Friends or fairweather friends, Mr Chidambaram?

After all, hasn't Thursday also been the day when Mulayam Singh Yadav said: "The Third Front stands united against government" and that "no one is happy with government decisions".

The Bharath Bandh, meanwhile, has hit life badly in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat (details below).

0215 pm:
Mulayam Singh, released after being detained for the briefest of moments at Delhi's Parliament Street police station along with the CPM's Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury, the CPI's AB Bardhan and and the Telugu Desam Party's Chandrababu Naidu, had this to say on his release: "There can be no better example of Third Front than this. The Third Front stands united against government."

"No one is happy with government decisions," Mulayam added.

"The tragedy is that our prime minister (Manmohan Singh) has begun to worship the US," Yechury said to loud cheers.

Congress leader and Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni expressed her unhappiness with the 'bandh'. She was particularly critical of the Trinamool Congress.

"I am surprised an alliance partner would (protest) because they are privy to all decisions," she said.

"It is a very difficult decision for any government to take. We have tried to assure everybody that there is no other way to keep the economy on track," she added.

0200 pm:
Bangalore, India's IT capital, has been hit hard by the strike, but in the financial capital Mumbai, banks and offices were open as usual.

In New Delhi, shops were shut in BJP constituencies and there were fewer cars on the road, but the central business district was untouched.

Odisha too saw protests.

"If we don't protest now, the central government will eliminate the poor and middle-class families," said Santi Barik as she protested in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

Government offices, businesses, schools and banks in Bhubaneswar were shut.

Similar shutdowns were reported in other cities, including Hyderabad.

In Bangalore, most of Intel's 3,500 employees  and Cisco's 10,000 employees were asked to work from home, company spokesmen said.

Infosys Ltd and Wipro Ltd gave workers the day off, but will ask them to work on Saturday instead.

0145 pm:
Mulayam Singh, Sitaram Yechury, AB Bardhan, Chandrababu Naidu have begun to head their different ways from New Delhi's Parliament Street police station after having been briefly detained, according to reports.

0130 pm:
Mulayam Singh Yadav, whom UPA-II is relying on to shore up their government in the event of a no-confidence vote, and the Left's Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat are among the top leaders courting arrest.

CPI's AB Bardhan and the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu have also courted arrest.

Among the top leaders detained already are former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa and former Union Ministers Ananth Kumar, Ravi Shankar Prasad and CP Thakur (all of the BJP).

Bharath Bandh across India

The Bharath Bandh crippled normal life in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam and Tripura.

Elsewhere in India, including Delhi, life was near normal although Left as well as NDA activists organised noisy rallies in all major cities.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav courted arrest in Delhi along with Left leaders AB Bardhan, Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury, and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu.

In Bangalore, BJP's former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa too courted arrest.

The government said it would not back off on its economic measures.

Law Minister Salman Khurshid said: "We have done the reforms with a humane face. This is an 'aam aadmi' reform."

Khurshid denied the government could topple because of the exit of the Trinamool Congress, which has 19 MPs in the 545-seat Lok Sabha and is the second largest constituent in the ruling UPA.

He said the UPA has "enough support from MPs and friendly parties." Finance Minister P Chidambaram echoed the theme.

In West Bengal, where the ruling Trinamool Congress has opposed the strike, the shutdown called by the Left and BJP virtually paralysed life.

Streets in Kolkata were deserted, suburban train services were hit and government and business offices recorded thin attendance.

In the national capital, Delhi Metro and state-run buses ran normal services. Auto-rickshaws were also freely available.

Kerala, a state notorious for shutdowns, did not join the strike as it had already observed a state-wide shutdown a week ago.

In Maharashtra, while traders observed the shutdown, Mumbai's suburban trains, BEST buses, public transport and flights were unaffected - on the second day of Ganesh festival.

In Bihar, Janata Dal-United and BJP activists blocked railway tracks and roads. Hundreds of train passengers were stranded in numerous stations.

In Chandigarh and Amritsar, BJP workers were caught on video threatening and beating people to enforce the shutdown.

In Tamil Nadu, with the ruling AIADMK not backing the shutdown, the strike evoked partial response despite DMK's support.

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