Positioning itself against its ally Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Sunday launched an agitation against the hike in the prices of kerosene, diesel and LPG.
The Opposition parties such as the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too led protests in various parts of the state such as Solapur, Nanded, Sangli.
The NCP's agitation, however, has irked the Congress as the party is a member of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
Congress leader and union rural development minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on Sunday taunted Pawar for his stand and termed NCP's action "inappropriate". "This is not appropriate as we are working together and the power is shared. With power, the responsibility too should be shared," Deshmukh said in Sangli.
Ajit Pawar, on Saturday, had told the party workers: "A hike as much as Rs50 is not acceptable. The NCP is against the hike and so party workers must immediately react to the hike irrespective of the fact that we are part of the Central government."
Political observers see the NCP protest, ahead of the municipal polls, early next year as their attempt to create an impression that the party is not aligned with the Congress-led UPA especially on unpopular decisions like the price hike. The NCP shares power with the Congress at the Centre and in the state.
NCP's latest action is similar to last year's agitation by the Congress against the spike in the prices of vegetables. The Congress party had then passed on the responsibility of the hike to agriculture and distribution minister Sharad Pawar.
Sources in the NCP said: "Pawar wants to get back at the Congress and this is in line with our decision to be on the offensive instead of always defending our position.''
It remains to be seen how this tussle will be played out in the state secretariat next week. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has said that he is looking at possible reduction of the burden by slashing the taxes. Ajit Pawar, as the finance minister, will have to okay any cut in fuel taxes.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, Shiv Sena and Republican Party of India (RPI) also protested against the hike. RPI president Ramdas Athavle said: "The UPA government at the Centre is responsible for inflation."
Meanwhile, the activists of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) also protested against the hike in the fuel prices at various spots in Mumbai. Two MNS legislators - Nitin Sardesai and Praveen Darekar - along with 20 other protestors, were arrested after they blocked the road near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park Bridge in Borivli on Sunday. Similarly, another MNS legislator Praveen Darekar too was arrested when he blocked a part of the Borivli Express Highway.
"Rising prices are putting an unbearable burden on the masses. This is our way of reaching out to the government. We were released on bail in the evening," said Darekar.
(With inputs from Mumbai)