Centre rejects petrollback

Centre rejects petrollback

After backing a reversal of fuel price hike, Congress backs out

Centre rejects petrollback

Ruling out reversal of the hike in the prices of petrol, top government sources said the West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee was posturing to impress her supporters and that she was a ‘compulsive populist’.

The state-owned oil companies on November 3 raised the petrol prices by a minimum Rs 1.82 per litre, and claimed that it was an attempt to stem losses on higher global crude oil and depreciation of the rupee vis-à-vis dollar in the recent months.

Although the oil marketing companies initially said the hike was unavoidable in the wake of huge under-recoveries or revenue loss incurred by them, they later said they would be prepared to  withdraw the hike if the government directed them to do so, raising hopes of a partial rollback. In Kolkata, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee sought to downplay Mamata Banerjee’s threat, saying it was “perfectly legitimate” for any ally to voice concerns on such issues. He, however, hoped that the issues raised by her would be sorted out on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s return from his visit to France for the G20 summit.

The Congress party, which on Friday indicated that it was in favour of a rollback, said on Saturday that it was left to the government to take a decision on it.

Asserting that there would be no rollback, a senior Cabinet minister said: “The decision to hike petrol price was in line with the empowerment that government has given to oil marketing companies last year.” “Banerjee did not attend that EGoM meeting of June 25, 2010, but her consent was taken. She continued in the Union Cabinet after the decision was made to decontrol petrol prices and did not threaten even once to withdraw support,” according to highly placed sources in the government.

An indication of the government stand on the issue was available on Friday, as the prime minister said in Cannes, where he attended the G-20 summit, that there should be further decontrol of prices.

The Opposition parties, however, continued to criticise the government. The Left parties staged demonstrations in Delhi, while the Samajwadi Party, which offers outside support to the UPA government in Parliament, said it would not do so in future.