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Indian Opposition Party Leads Protests Over Prices in Delhi

- India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party rallied supporters through the streets of New Delhi today to demand the government move to ease prices it says are hurting the poor.

Protesters marched from near the Indian capital’s historic Red Fort to Jantar Mantar, an 18th-century observatory near the country’s Parliament. Food-price inflation has stayed above 15 percent since November, contributing to two interest rate increases in a month by the Reserve Bank of India. The BJP estimates 300,000 people will take part in today’s demonstration, Times Now television said.

“The rally is to show the people’s anger for the inaction of the government to contain prices,” said Nirmala Sitharaman, a BJP spokeswoman. “There has been no concrete step by the government” to contain prices.

Party supporters from 28 states have been brought to New Delhi on special trains and buses, the BJP said. The gathering of protesters blocked roads in parts of the city.

India’s benchmark wholesale-price inflation rate in March stood at 9.9 percent, almost doubling since November. To slow the fastest inflation among Group of 20 nations, the central bank yesterday raised interest rates and ordered lenders to set aside more cash as reserves.

Increasing food prices “is a problem of such severity that common man does not know what he has to do and how to live with limited income,” Sitharaman said.

BJP members walked out of Parliament. “People have come to tell their sufferings to the government,” said leader Sushma Swaraj. “We are going to join them.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has vowed to bring inflation under control. Inflation is a sensitive issue in India, where the World Bank 2008 estimate showed that three-fourths of the 1.2 billion people live on less than $2 a day.

Other opposition parties including the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Samajwadi Party have announced plans to use a vote in Parliament to force Singh’s administration to roll back duties on fuel imposed in February’s budget.

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