Several people took to the streets in Andhra Pradesh on Thursday, as Left parties called for a bandh to protest 'injustice' to the state because of what they termed an “anti-people” Budget.
Many cadres of the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India-Marxist and several other smaller parties joined the shutdown, along with workers of the YSRCP and state unit of the Congress.
Leader of Opposition, YS Jaganmohan Reddy, also suspended his padayatra for a day, and met with YSRCP activists on Thursday morning.
Schools shut, bus services disrupted
As a precautionary measure, the Commissioner of School Education declared a holiday for all schools in the state and also postponed exams, to "avoid inconvenience to students."
The Andhra University in the city also suspended classes after a statement by Registrar Umamaheshwar Rao.
In Vijayawada, there was a mixed response as a large number of shops voluntarily remained shut.
While buses initially planned to run, protests at the Pundit Nehru Bus Station forced the RTC to suspend services temporarily.
Meanwhile in Visakhapatnam, reports stated that more than 1,300 APSRTC buses were stopped in protest.
In several cities and towns of the state, buses were forced to go off the roads after protesters blocked arterial roads and highways.
Auto rickshaws on the other hand, continued to function, though there were fewer vehicles on the road, as many drivers had express their support to the bandh.
Train services were largely unaffected.
The Aam Aadmi Party unit of the state held a rally in Besant Road, while others protested on the Eluru road. A large number of protestors gathered at Lenin Centre in the heart of the city.
The AP Union Of Working Journalists and the Andhra Pradesh Journalist Forum (APJF) also extended support to the bandh.
"The union government has a responsibility to fulfil its promises. The Centre and the state government should be reminded that people are observing the whole issue. They will give their verdict, if they are ignored," Chevula Krishnanjayelu from the APJF told TNM.
Andhra Pradesh Congress Party Women's wing leader Sunkara Padma Sree said, "Special Status is a right of Andhraites, Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu are only indulging in theatrics."
"Modi is full of rhetoric, but is far from reality. The Centre and the state are cheating the people," she added.
There was tension in Eluru in the early hours of Thursday, as police were forced to detain activists of the Congress and YSRCP after they blocked buses and affected normal life.
Meanwhile, Left parties held demonstrations in areas of the Rayalaseema region like Kadapa and Anantapur.
(A protest in Chirala, in Ongole district)
Ironically, the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) also called for protests across the state to express solidarity with its MPs, who have been trying to stall the proceedings in both the Houses of Parliament to demand justice to the state.
TDP MLA Bonda Umamaheshwar Rao, along with TDP cadres, participated in a protest at Vijayawada's 'Dharna Chowk'.
"It shows our commitment to stage a dharna despite being an ally of the Union Government and part of its coalition. The Centre must fulfil its promises according to the Andhra Pradesh Bifurcation Act, 2014," the Vijayawada Central legislator said.
Actor-politician Pawan Kalyan and his Jana Sena party also extended support to the protest, stating that his party would support the shutdown if it was observed peacefully and without causing inconvenience to people.
MPs continue protest at Parliament
Even as people protested in the state, MPs from the state continued holding placards and registering their dissent at the premises of the Parliament in New Delhi.
The TDP has been intentionally disrupting Parliament proceedings stating that the Centre had not given the promised financial assistance to Andhra Pradesh.
This came after TDP president Naidu asked his party MPs to continue the protest till a categorical announcement from the Centre.
Participating in a debate on the Union Budget in the Lok Sabha a day earlier, TDP MP Jayadev Galla said they have been fulfilling the "alliance dharma" (with the National Democratic Alliance) since 2014, and this is the last chance for Andhra Pradesh to get what it was promised ahead of its bifurcation to carve out a separate state of Telangana.
"What message will it send to your allies? India has not seen the last days of coalition governments; what message do you want to send to allies and potential allies. Allies are feeling humiliated, as are the people of Andhra Pradesh," the TDP leader said.
Meanwhile, Director General of Police M. Malakondaia directed Superintendents of Police in all districts to take all measures to maintain law and order. The officials in districts were asked to take precautionary measures to protect public property and also keep a tight vigil.