There is no greater satisfaction in politics than to see one’s opponent on the mat. If that is what the NDA, the Left parties, the DMK and the Samajwadi Party hoped to see on Thursday, they must be somewhat happy. The Opposition-sponsored countrywide strike against the Centre’s decision to hike diesel prices and allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail got a decent response, but then only in some parts of the country.
However, Thursday’s general strike is kind of ironic in many ways: the Trinamool Congress led by the queen of combative politics Mamata Banerjee did not participate in the strike (the Left was in it and that was more than enough to put her off) where as the Samajwadi Party, which may end up saving the UPA at the Centre in the coming days, was in the forefront. Moreover, in their excitement to make a statement against the “neo-liberal economic policies” of the government, everyone forgot — or rather did not care — about the fact that the courts have been crying hoarse against strikes: for example, the first major verdict against strikes came in 1997, when the Kerala high court ruled that “forced bandhs” were illegal (ah, did we hear some leaders say that Thursday’s strike was spontaneous?) This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1998. And then again in 2007, the Supreme Court took notice of the strike called in Delhi on the Gujjar issue and said that the government’s inaction was a national shame. According to the Confederation of Indian Industry, this time around, the economic loss is almost Rs. 12,500 crore in terms of disruptions in production and trade.
The political parties may cry themselves hoarse that such general strikes are our democratic right and the general public participates in them willingly. But the truth is that the superstars of such activities are not the aam aadmi but those hoodlums who have made participation in strikes such a lucrative business.