Mamata seeks ban on parties that call bandhs

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday stirred up a fresh row by urging the Election Commission of India to ban political parties that call shutdowns.

Claiming that the people of Bengal have rejected the two-day strike, Mamata referred to court verdicts against enforcing strikes and said, "It is my humble request to the Election Commission that political parties, which call bandhs, should be banned".

She said though she was opposed to various polices of the central government, including issues against which the strike was called, she would not allow strikes in Bengal as it caused huge financial loss for the debt-ridden state.

"We were the first political party to oppose FDI in retail and the petrol price hike. We even came out of the UPA due to our opposition to these policies. But we don't support strikes because a strike means both economic loss and wastage of mandays," the Chief Minister said.

Her comment triggered a huge uproar from various political parties with some even ridiculing her for forgetting that her party had "called bandh 21 times in Bengal between 2007 and 2011".

Shyamal Chakraborty, the state president of CPM-backed trade union CITU said: "It is most unfortunate that we have a Chief Minister who is not aware of the Constitution. The right to strike is one of the fundamental rights enjoyed by the people. She can consult the Constitution and if need arises can take help of the government lawyers," said Chakraborty.

State Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya also termed the comment as "unconstitutional". "We do not support bandh. But the parties which call bandh cannot be banned. A state government does not have any right to say this." Congress general secretary Omprakash Mishra said the right of the people to strike cannot be taken away though it adversely affects economic activities. The BJP, too, criticised her remark saying to go on a strike is a democratic right and must be left to the people to decide whether they support it or not.

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