Pressure on govt to roll back petrol hike
Opposition calls for nation-wide bundh on May 31
Amid nation-wide protests against steep hike in petrol price and the Opposition parties’ call for a Bharat Bundh on May 31, the Congress Party on Thursday asked the Union Government to do its bit to ease the burden on common people.
The appeal by the ruling party came, as oil companies indicated that consumers could expect some relief early next month only if the current trend of softening international crude prices persisted.
With the key partners of the Congress in the UPA government at the Centre irked over the rise in petrol prices, the absence of M K Alagiri of the (DMK), Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel of the NCP and Mukul Roy of the Trinamool Congress in the Cabinet meeting on Thursday triggered speculation of a storm brewing within the ruling coalition.
The Centre is yet to commit a roll-back of the hike in petrol prices. Oil Minister S Jaipal Reddy is understood to have cut short his visit to Turkmenistan and is likely to return to Delhi late on Thursday night or in the early hours of Friday.
The state-owned oil companies justified the hikes, but promised that as and when the international prices of crude comes down, the benefit would be passed on to the consumers. The Congress said it expected the Centre to work with the state governments and oil companies to find out a way to partially rollback the hike in petrol prices. The ruling party, however, sought to deflect criticism and said that raising the prices of petrol was not a political decision or the one taken by the government. It pointed out that it was the responsibility of the oil marketing companies to fix prices of petrol, as the administered price mechanism had been dismantled.
The Congress-ruled governments of Uttarakhand and Kerala waived tax on the additional amount to bring down the petrol prices by up to 25 per cent. The party is understood to have advised its governments in other states to do the same. The Congress also called upon the governments of the states ruled by other parties to follow suit, apparently to turn the table on the BJP and its own troublesome ally Trinamool Congress, which is in power in West Bengal.
The BJP-led NDA called for a Bharat Bundh on May 31 to protest against the hike in petrol prices. The CPM and other Left parties, too, made public their plan to carry out protests across the country on the same day, fuelling speculation about the Opposition coming together to launch a united onslaught on the Congress.
The Janata Dal (United) chief and NDA convenor Sharad Yadav spoke to the leaders of Left parties and Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav in what appeared to be a move to coordinate the Opposition parties’ protest against the Congress-led Government at the Centre.
“Government has washed its hands off the decision on price hike but in reality it happens only when the government wants. The government will also be increasing prices of diesel and LPG after the Presidential elections get over,” said Yadav, who is also understood to have reached out to Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and All India Anna Dravida Munnethra Kazhagam (AIADMK) – the parties in power in Odisha and Tamil Nadu.