Fuel, food price hikes likely to ignite parliament

Fuel, food price hikes likely to ignite parliament

Fuel, food price hikes likely to ignite parliament

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist parties have convened separate meetings on Wednesday morning to decide their strategy in the two houses of parliament. Their leaders said they will give priority to the hikes in petrol and diesel prices after Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee raised taxes on them.

They are also expected to raise the issue of food price inflation. "The BJP will be aggressive on the issue of price rise. Discussion on the issue is fine, but a solution should come out," party leader Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters.

He said people were feeling cheated by the government's move to hike prices of petrol and diesel. "The decision came a day after the discussion in the House (Lok Sabha) on the price rise. People are feeling cheated," he said.

In an unprecedented move, the entire opposition along with some parties supporting the government walked out of the Lok Sabha on Friday as soon as Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced the tax hikes on petrol and diesel. Later, two key allies of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) - Trinamool Congress and DMK - sought a rollback of the taxes.

Asked about the BJP's response to the pending legislative agenda of the government including the railway budget, Hussain said issues concerning common man would be raised first. "We have been elected to plead the cause of aam aadmi (common man)," he said.

The Left leaders will meet leaders of the Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and some other "secular parties" Wednesday morning to decide their strategy on fuel price hikes. Both SP and RJD support the government from outside.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Basudeb Acharia told reporters that Telugu Desam Party, the AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal will also be invited to the meeting. However, the Congress exuded confidence that the government will be able to address concerns of UPA allies on the hikes in petrol and diesel prices.

Party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said divergence of views in a democracy was not unusual and differences among UPA allies would be sorted out. "If the opposition is trying to create a wedge between the Congress and its partners, it will not succeed," he said.

Referring to remarks of Mukherjee about sorting out concerns of Trinamool Congress and DMK on the fuel price hikes, Ahmed said both parties were "trusted allies". Asked about the SP and RJD joining hands with the opposition on price rise, he said their stance would be clearer in the coming days.

Ahmed said the government will not face difficulty in defeating any opposition-sponsored cut motion during the discussion on the budget. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has virtually ruled out any rollback in the price hike of petrol and diesel as announced in the budget, saying that the direct effect of the hike in fuel prices on wholesale prices will be no more than 0.4 percent.

"Any increase in prices does hurt some section of people, but we have to take a long term view. We cannot save people from inflation if we follow all along populist fiscal policies," Manmohan Singh told reporters Monday on board the special aircraft that brought him back to New Delhi from his three-day official visit to Saudi Arabia. "The direct effect of the increase in fuel prices on wholesale prices will be no more than 0.4 percent," he added.