The politicisation of trade issues has brought about good news for Mumbaikars. The rift between the Sharad Rao-led union (who is allied with NCP) and the Shiv Sena-led union has resulted in the unions partially participating the bandh. In other words, the Sharad Rao-led transport and allied unions that were supposed to stay off the roads will ply as usual today and tomorrow.
The rift between the two unions occurred when Shiv Sena and smaller unions took out a morcha from Byculla to Azad Maidan on Feb 18, two days prior to the actual protest. During the agitation, members of the union began criticising NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar over the poor state of affairs.
Obviously, this criticism did not go down well with Sharad Rao and his men. “Uddhav Thackeray and his men unnecessarily criticised Sharad Pawar and others. He had no right to do this. Also none of the recognised 11 central trade unions asked the Sena for their support,” said an irate Sharad Rao, president, Hind Mazdoor Sabha.
Later, he added that they too would only support the ‘industrial action’ of the bandh, which means that while they support the closure of factories and industries, all modes of transport like autos, BEST buses, taxis and other essential utilities under the civic body would function as usual.
Rao also said that taking their demands into consideration, PM Manmohan Singh had formed a five-member committee to look into the issues. This committee would include Sharad Pawar, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Mallikarjun Kharge and Defence Minister AK Antony. “The government has extended a hand for the first time after many years with trade unions. We will talk to the government and wait for another three months,” said Rao.
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