Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday challenged former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a full-fledged debate in Parliament on the state of economy. His comment was a response to Singh’s criticism at a protest meeting in New Delhi on Monday that was part of the countrywide strike against rising fuel prices.

Singh said it was time for all Opposition parties to shed their differences and move forward unitedly to save democracy in the country, PTI reported. “The Modi government has done a lot which is not in national interest,” the Congress leader said. “Now it has crossed the limit and time is coming to change it.”

Prasad said political parties were creating an environment of fear over the fuel price hike. “Manmohan Singh is saying Goods and Services Tax has destroyed the nation. I am ready to debate Singh in Parliament,” Prasad said, according to NDTV.

He also said Singh should avoid making stray remarks and leave that to Congress President Rahul Gandhi, DNA reported.

Meanwhile, Prasad accused the Congress and other Opposition parties of resorting to violence because the people had not responded enthusiastically to their call for Bharat Bandh. He described the fuel price hike as a “momentary difficulty”.

“Why are the people of India indifferent to the Bharat Bandh?” he told reporters at a press conference. “They understand the rise in fuel prices, though temporary, is because of factors beyond the control of the Indian government and ordinary Indian.”

The failure of the strike had unnerved the Congress and other Opposition parties, Prasad claimed, leading them to use violence. “Everyone has a right to protest but what is happening today?” he asked at a press conference in New Delhi. “Petrol pumps and buses being set ablaze, putting lives at risk.” He also referred to reports that a child had died after an ambulance got stuck in protests at Jehanabad in Bihar. “Who is responsible for this?” he asked.

Prasad indicated that the Centre will not encourage state governments to cut taxes on petrol and diesel. “We will leave them to their own wisdom,” he said. The Andhra Pradesh government has already announced a Rs 2 cut in the value added tax imposed by the state on petrol and diesel.