Kolkata, May 26 (IANS) Stepping up pressure on the beleaguered Congress-led central government on the issue of hike in petrol prices, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Saturday led a protest rally of several thousand Trinamool supporters here, demanding a roll back.
Banerjee, popularly known as 'didi', asked her supporters to further organise more rallies across the state demanding a roll back. Her Trinamool Congress is the second largest partner in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
Senior party leader Shovandeb Chattopadhaya, while addressing the rally, said the central government has to roll back the petroleum prices.
"The Congress-led central government has to roll back the petroleum prices. We don't support this decision. We don't believe in putting excess burden on the masses," he said.
Petrol prices have been hiked by Rs.6.28 per litre, exclusive of taxes. It is costing nearly Rs.78 in Kolkata after the rise.
Banerjee Saturday led a 5.6 km-long rally from Jadavpur police station area via Prince Anwar Shah Road to Hazra crossing in Kolkata. The entire area around the Prince Anwar Shah Road-Rashbehari Road area came to standstill as she led several thousand Trinamool activists and ministers.
Carrying party flags and posters and shouting "Mamata Banerjee zindabad" (long live) and "roll back petrol price hike", Trinamool supporters and participants walked the entire stretch with the firebrand Bengal chief minister. She was recently named as one of the most influential persons of the world by the TIME magazine.
Banerjee waved to the crowds and greeted the people standing along both sides of the road.
After reaching the end point at Hazra crossing, Banerjee asked her party supporters to organise protest rallies against petroleum price hike in each and every block of the state.
The Bengal chief minister, known for beginning her day by spending half an hour on an electronic walker everyday, seemed in high spirits as she took long strides only sometimes taking a brief break.
Trinamool on Wednesday had slammed the Congress for not discussing the issue of petroleum price hike with the allies and had clearly stated that they don't support the price hike and would protest it.
This is Trinamool's second rally in the heart of the city. Earlier on Thursday, Trinamool general secretary and Railway Minister Mukul Roy led a five-km-long protest rally from Hazra Crossing in south Kolkata to the Gandhi Statue on Mayo Road in central Kolkata.
Although her rally had drawn a huge crowd, experts have interpreted her decision as an effort to force the central government to announce a partial rollback and not to concede any political space to the Left Front, which has also conducted road blockades across the state as a gesture of protest.
Miffed over the steep hike in petrol prices, Banerjee Wednesday had said that she would protest but not pull out of the central government.
"As we have a commitment to support the government and we do not want political instability, we are not pulling out. But that does not mean we will not oppose the decision. The hike is unjust. We are really pained and saddened," Banerjee told media at the state secretariat.