A day after the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-II government touted high economic growth in its annual report, it came under attack from the opposition as well as its allies on Wednesday for the sharpest hike yet in petrol price — a decision that could prove to be politically costly with just two years to go for the elections.
Petrol prices will rise between Rs7.54 and Rs7.98 in the four metros following a base price hike of Rs6.28 per litre exclusive of taxes, effective midnight.
Reflecting public anger over the dramatic price hike, UPA ally Trinamool Congress slammed the move, saying the hike was “a burden on the common man.”
Asserting that she and her party were not consulted over this politically fraught decision, Banerjee said the Trinamool was not pulling out of the government, but warned that this would cause more economic and political instability.
Banerjee said on Wednesday that she would protest but not pull out of the central government.
“The hike is unjust. We are really pained and saddened,” Banerjee told the media at the state secretariat.
She lashed out at the Congress for taking the decision without consulting its alliance partners.
“Before taking such a big decision, even if it was necessary, why were the coalition partners not consulted?
“The Congress must remember it is not running the government on its own. There are other partners.
“Parliament was in session till Tuesday. Couldn’t they have discussed it then? Why come out with the hike after parliament is adjourned?”
The Trinamool Congress chief accused the central government of mismanaging the economy.
“We cannot accept this burden on the common people. That’s why we are not supporting the price hike in petrol,” said Banerjee.
The DMK, another key UPA ally, was also disappointed and said it will take up the issue with the government.
Slamming the central government for hiking the petrol price, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on Wednesday said the decision could have been avoided by sound economic action.
In a statement, she said: “By reducing the profits of the oil companies and the central taxes on the oil and by controlling the rupee depreciation through economic actions, the petrol price hike could have been averted.” Instead of taking action for developing the economy, hiking petrol prices several times during a year “is an act of cruelty on the people,” she added. The chief opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was unstinting in its denunciation of the price hike and accused the government of burdening the common man through “mismanagement of the economy.”
The party demanded a rollback and asserted that it will take its protest against the price hike to the streets.
“It’s atrocious and unbelievable. The UPA government on its third anniversary has given the gift of fuel hike to the people,” senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar told reporters.
“This is injustice and there is no justification for this,” he said.
BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain warned that the Congress would be taught a lesson in the general elections, adding that the UPA allies would face collateral damage for being seen to support the Congress over this unpopular move.
He accused the UPA of celebrating three years in power on Tuesday when the economy was reeling.
Taking a dig at the UPA-II’s third anniversary celebrations, Hussain said the price hike has exposed the government’s claims of standing up for the common man.
“The government had taken this step emboldened by the presence of new allies,” he said, alluding to leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Lalu Yadav of the RJD sharing the stage with the UPA at the anniversary celebrations.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman rebutted the government’s contention that the price hike was forced by the rise in global oil prices said it was merely using the global financial crisis as “an excuse for its mismanagement of the economy.”
The Communist parties, too, slammed the hike.