New Delhi: Rafale is passé and petroleum prices are in. In Its nationwide call for Bharat Bandh, Congress surprisingly didn’t underscore its much-publicised allegations about the Rafale deal. Instead, it focussed on issues like price rise, petroleum prices and women safety that resonates with the aam aadmi.

But the Bharat Bandh that was supposed to be a show of strength by the principal opposition party just highlighted more cracks within the so-called Mahagatbandhan or the grand alliance, whose support the Congress has been banking on. What shifted people’s attention from the bandh-related rally was the presence of Sajjan Kumar, an accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom — an accusation Rahul Gandhi washed his hands off recently in Europe.


To begin with, in Delhi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi returned from his Mansarover Yatra to lead the protest march. A rally held in Delhi’s Ramlila ground was attended not only by Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh but also by representatives from other political parties. But outside Ramlila Maidan, there was no semblance of a shutdown across the national capital.

In what has been a major embarrassment for the Congress, two major constituents of the grand alliance — Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) — boycotted Congress’s Ramlila event. On being asked about it, senior leader of the Congress Sushmita Dev gave a bizarre explanation for it to MyNation: “Narendra Modi has used all tricks in the books to pressure opposition and create a rift!”

Communist parties together held a protest that could at best gather 20 people! Led by senior leaders like CPI(M)’s general secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI leader D Raja they congregated at jantar mantar to shout anti Modi slogans but with almost negligible presence of cadres. Later Aam Admi Party’s (AAP) Atishi Marlena joined them.


In Bengal, once known as the capital of shutdowns, all shops remained open and traffic remained normal. Communist workers tried to stop trains at the Jadavpur railway station but police intervened. In other parts of Kolkata, city police cracked down heavily on protestors, arresting many. Congress even in the State capital remained an insignificant force.


Congress had to face a bigger embarrassment in Odisha where the State Assembly is in session. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik openly stated his party Biju Janata Dal (BJD) does not support this Bharat Bandh. Sources say an upset State Congress requested the Assembly Speaker to adjourn the house proceedings until lunch as a face saves, which the Speaker plainly refused.


Bihar, meanwhile, saw an unfortunate incident of an ambulance stuck in traffic due to the road blockage for Bharat Bandh that cost a precious human life — in a stark reminder of a similar incident from Haryana’s Sonepat recently where a child succumbed to his injuries when his ambulance was stuck due to a Congress demonstration on the road for hours.


Down south, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) did not support this bandh call, not surprisingly after its chief K Chandrasekhar Rao called the Congress president a ‘buffoon’, which led to a war of words on Twitter between Digvijaya Singh and KT Rama Rao, the son of the chief minister.


Karnataka observed a shutdown partially, thanks to an official order that came yesterday from the State’s chief secretary asking all schools to remain shut. It was a move widely criticised by the opposition in the State where Janata Dal-Secular (JDS) is running the government with the support of the Congress.


Mumbai has interestingly seen some hooliganism on streets with Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) terrorising shopkeepers to down shutters, forcing a bandh. But, Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena stayed away from the bandh.

Overall, save a few Congress-ruled States like Punjab and Karnataka and LDF-ruled Kerala, the forever-in-the-making Mahagatbandhan proved an emphatic flop. The photo-ops and rhetoric at Ramlila Maidan aside, the country today rejected the idea of a shutdown.