Politics has heated up in Uttarakhand for the first time in the last few days since the coronavirus pandemic outbreak in mid-March, with Congress taking to the streets and the BJP starting virtual rallies in all 70 assembly constituencies of the state.
On Thursday, Congress leaders and workers assembled in Dehradun’s Gandhi Park area to protest against the continuous hike in the prices of diesel and petrol. Following the protest, police booked Congress state president Pritam Singh, senior vice president Suryakant Dhasmana and 163 other Congress workers for staging a protest without permission and for not adhering to social distancing norms during the protest action, said police.
Station house officer of Dehradun Kotwali police station SS Negi said all the 165 Congress leaders and workers have been booked under IPC sections 147 (rioting), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and section 51 of the Disaster Management Act 2005.
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Congress leaders have lashed out at the state government for trying to “silence” them by booking such a large number of party members.
Leader of opposition Indira Hridayesh said the BJP government was trying to intimidate Congress leaders and workers by filing FIRs against them. “This is an attempt to stifle the voice of the Opposition in the state. We have demanded the withdrawal of all cases filed against our people. Congress is not afraid of this harassment. We will continue to oppose anti-people policies of the BJP in future also,” she said
Congress vice president Suryakant Dhasmana said the party won’t be stopped by such tactics as it was fighting for the people. “People across the country are suffering due to price hike in petrol and diesel, that too, when they are already facing hardships on all fronts due to the coronavirus epidemic. Whatever number of cases they lodge against us, we will not stop. We will continue to fight for people. People cannot be looted like this. They are already facing severe financial hardship,” he said.
BJP leadership has rubbished Congress’s claims. State BJP president Bansidhar Bhagat said nobody is trying to silence the Congress. He said Congress or anybody in the state has a right to protest as long as they follow the laid out rules. “But these protests have to be staged as per the norms by seeking prior permission from the authorities concerned and by adhering to social distancing norms these days. Congress or anybody else can’t violate these norms.”
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Bhagat also said that the price hike in petrol and diesel keeps changing according to the price of crude oil. “Sometimes they increase and sometimes they decrease. It has been happening during Congress regimes and it will continue to happen as prices keep fluctuating from time to time,” he said.
Three days ago, BJP also started virtual rallies in the state to mark the completion of the first year of the second term of the NDA government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The inaugural virtual rally was held by party state president Bansidhar Bhagat addressing party workers in Tehri assembly constituency from Dehradun party office.