Indian opposition party supporters shout slogans as they protest against fuel price hikes in Bangalore yesterday. AP/ANA
India’s opposition parties for the first time observed a nationwide strike over soaring fuel prices and a declining currency, harnessing public anger over deepening cost pressures just seven months out from a national election.

Violence erupted in Bihar, Maharashtra and other states as protesters damaged vehicles and burnt tyres, while trains and bus services were disrupted and schools and shops were closed in other parts of India.

Rahul Gandhi, president of the main opposition Congress party, which called the strike, led the protest march in the capital, New Delhi, but the disruption was felt mostly in states ruled by regional parties.

“It has been four years and the people are able to see clearly what the BJP government has done,” Gandhi told a protest gathering, blaming policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party-led government and criticising his silence on issues including petrol and diesel price rises. “What the country wants to hear, what the youth want to hear, the prime minister does not talk about it. The country is fed up with seeing him.”

Fuel prices have been rising in the fastest-growing oil-consuming nation over the past few weeks.

Yesterday’s strike was a show of strength by the Congress party, which is trying to unite opposition parties against Modi and could set the stage for the formation of a formal opposition coalition.

The Congress party has been stepping up its offensive against the government, pushing issues including depreciation of the Indian currency against the dollar, alleged improprieties in the purchase of Rafale fighter aircraft and the impact of the 2016 ban on 86% of the country’s cash. Modi’s administration has also been facing protests from students, farmers, trade unions, and Dalits, once known as "untouchables". Bloomberg