While political parties have expressed solidarity for traders who are resisting the state’s plan to impose local body tax (LBT) in lieu of octroi from October, they have chosen to ignore the trouble the layperson is going through because of the agitation.
The BJP’s Mumbai president Raj Purohit has decided to sit on dharna at Azad Maidan in support of the traders. BJP spokesperson Atul Shah on Wednesday claimed the party was fighting for consumers. “LBT is going to be eventually charged from consumers so we oppose it,” he said.
The NCP, the Congress’ ally, has asked CM Prithviraj Chavan to sort out the issue. “We can’t force shopkeepers to conduct business, but we want the issue resolved. People will benefit when shops are open,” said Nawab Malik, NCP spokesperson.
Political rivals and cousins Uddhav Thackeray, president of Shiv Sena, and MNS chief Raj Thackeray, who usually have no qualms taking up aggressive stances, paid lip service to consumers by asking traders to end their stir. But Uddhav’s focus was on octroi. “Octroi should continue till a suitable solution is found.”
“Raj Thackeray has already issued a statement in favour of people. The next course of action will follow soon,” MNS spokesperson Shirish Parkar said.
Consumer groups and activists condemned politicians for not taking up the consumers’ cause. “In the fight between the state and traders, we are being held to ransom. And not one politician is supporting our cause,” said activist Mukesh Tyagi. Consumer activist Anil Mishra said: “Let politicians ensure there is no inconvenience to consumers.”
The Congress itself is divided, with 11 of its MPs demanding that the party give traders a sympathetic hearing. The CM is insisting that traders end the agitation and discuss the issue. “The LBT decision will be taken through legislature,” Chavan said.
“The state does not understand any other language. We are losing business, but LBT is unacceptable,” said Mohan Gurnani, president, Federation of Association of Merchants.
On Wednesday, retailers from Thane, Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad joined the agitation.