Clip Of Vajpayee's 1973 Bullock Cart Protest Viral Amidst Rising Fuel Prices

Vajpayee rode a bullock cart to the parliament to protest against then-PM Indira Gandhi's ride in a buggy a week earlier, while oil prices were starting to rise.

Social media is rife with an old video of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, where he can be seen riding a bullock cart while being surrounded by a crowd of people.

The video was shared by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor and Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien among others, who claimed that Vajpayee, then-leader of the Jan Sangh, was protesting by riding the bullock cart to the parliament in 1973, when the price of petrol was raised by seven paise.

Tharoor further stated that Vajpayee's protest would not be possible today with the new security restrictions on vehicle entry into the complex.

The video is viral in the backdrop of rising petrol prices in India, with some places in Punjab and Kerala crossing the Rs. 100-mark, and Delhi and Kolkata just shy of reaching there.

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Vajpayee's Protest

In November 1973, Vajpayee made a publicised statement against the Indira Gandhi-led government by riding the bullock cart to the parliament after petrol and diesel prices were raised in the country.

We found a Hindustan Times file photo of the event, which shows a similar scenario as the one in the viral video.


The protest was also covered by the New York Times.

According to the article, the protest took place on the first day of the winter session of the parliament in 1973, and "both the rightist and leftist parties demanded the resignation of the Government if it was unable to curb the rise of prices".

It further states that Vajpayee, and two other Jan Sangh members rode the bullock cart to the parliament to protest against then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's ride in a buggy a week earlier, while oil prices were starting to rise.

The article also states that Gandhi then followed this with a ride in a horse-driven cart "to set an example in conserving gasoline in the face of shortages".

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The 1973 Oil Shock

The rise in fuel prices in November 1973 was the first of many India was about to face, along with the rest of the world.

Just a month earlier, Arab members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), led by Saudi Arabia, imposed an oil embargo on Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States, for their support to Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, also known as the Yom Kippur War.

This immediately led to soaring prices of oil across the world - by the end of 1974, oil prices had risen nearly 300%. The 1973 oil crisis is considered to be the first 'oil shock' in the global economy.

Political Unrest And Emergency

Another article by the NYT, from January 1974, details how India was entering a state of economic turmoil following the inflated prices from the oil shock.

It read, "The nation's new five‐year development plan, set to start this year, is under drastic overhaul. Anywhere from 50 per cent to 80 per cent of India's export earnings will be spent on oil bills, compared with about 20 per cent last year. The cost of kerosene—the main cooking fuel—has climbed more than 60 per cent in the last two months, while gasoline prices have risen 80 per cent."

The economic turmoil of the early seventies was soon met with growing political unrest in the country against Gandhi, who was ruling with a firm grip on the party and the parliament. This eventually culminated in the imposition of State of Emergency in June 1975, which went on until March 1977.

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Updated On: 2021-07-04T18:24:13+05:30
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