BJP in damage control over fuel hike; slams Cong

Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. PTI photo.

As the Bharat Bandh called by Opposition parties against fuel price hike on Monday threw normal life out of gear and allies cautioned it on the issue, the BJP on Monday went in damage control mode acknowledging that people were facing "momentary difficulty" due to increasing petrol and diesel prices but castigated the Congress for “resorting to violence” during the agitation.

Party Chief Amit Shah had a 90-minute long meeting with Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan amid indications that some announcement could be made to send a message to the people that the government is sensitive to their hardships.

Pradhan had on Sunday hit back at the Congress over the fuel hike issue, telling its leaders, “If you can please ask your bosses in the high command as to how they hiked the price of petrol & diesel recently in ‘Karnataka’. The country and our OMCs are also yet to recover from the shock of Oil Bonds worth Rs 1.4 Lakh Crores issued during the UPA regime.”

He has taken the argument that the Modi government has to pay Rs 10000 crore interest for this every year and Oil Companies had to sell these bonds at discounted prices as there were no takers for these.

“People save for their future generations but our friends in the UPA burdened the future generations for temporary gains and politicking,” he had said.

On Monday, Rahul Gandhi and other opposition party leaders marched from Rajghat towards Ramlila Maidan, to protest against the fuel price hike.  

While sulking NDA ally Shiv Sena on Sunday put up posters across Mumbai to mock the Bharatiya Janata Party's slogan of 'achhe din, another ally from BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) cautioned that there is a “history of governments falling due to fuel price hike” in the country.

SBSP President Om Prakash Rajbhar, who is a Cabinet Minister in the Yogi Adityanath government in UP said on Twitter on Sunday, “In our country, there is a history of governments falling due to price rise. The people of the country have the real power. Whenever there is a hike in petrol or diesel rates, price rise has also happened and the government too has to suffer due to the price rise.  The government of the day has to suffer. This affects traders, youths, farmers and the poor.”

BJP on Monday held a special extensive briefing on the issue of the rise in oil prices and reeled out figures to highlight the government's expenditure on a number of welfare schemes, apparently to show that the revenue being earned from taxes on petroleum products are being used for "pro-poor" measures.

Briefing the media, senior party leader Ravishankar Prasad attributed the rise in petroleum prices to global factors and challenged former Prime Minister and noted economist Manmohan Singh for a one to one debate with him in Parliament on the economy. Earlier in the day, Singh urged opposition parties to shed their differences and move forward unitedly "to save" sovereignty and democracy in the country as the government had “crossed its limits” in taking decisions that are not in national interest.

“What the economist PM Manmohan Singh said & did on petroleum prices? He said that money does not grow on trees & left unpaid bills of oil bonds worth Rs. 1.3 lakh crore. Modi govt paid off the pending bills with interest because 'we should not burden our children',” BJP said on Twitter.

Prasad was also acerbic on Rahul Gandhi, who questioned the “silence” of the Prime Minister.

Asked about Singh's criticism of the government's economic policies, the BJP leader said the Congress leader should leave the job of making stray remarks to Gandhi and engage in a constructive debate with him. 

“The nation gets most bothered when Rahul Gandhi begins to speak. You give importance to Rahul Gandhi. We do not. He is raising questions on our government’s performance, if the discussion begins, it will go up to 47 years rule of Congress. What they did all these years,” Prasad said.

On expected lines, he rejected the Congress claim of the Bandh being a “stupendous success” and called it a “total failure”.

“It’s the essence of democracy that hospitals, ambulances, and medicine shops are allowed to function without any hindrance. But, with the death of 2-year-old in Bihar today, an environment of fear is being created,” Prasad alleged.

  • Ravi Shankar Prasad
  • Congress
  • fuel price hike
  • Bharat Bandh