The Modi government is facing sharp criticism from citizens and opposition parties for its failure to control rising petrol and diesel prices. In 2012, the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had attacked the erstwhile UPA government for its inability to check increasing fuel prices. After coming to power, the Modi government too is facing similar situation as opposition trains its guns at centre for no steps taken to curtail fuel prices. On the other hand, the government is blaming the Congress for politicising the fuel price hike issue. Petrol prices already has touched Rs 85.29 per litre in Mumbai and in Delhi it was selling at Rs 77.47 on Thursday. Diesel too has become expensive and it has touched Rs 72.96 per litre in Mumbai and has reached Rs 68.53 in Delhi.
NCP leader Vidya Chavan stated, “When global fuel prices had fallen the government did not pass the benefit to customers. They will reduce petrol price few months ahead of MP and Rajasthan elections. Media should raise their voice against fuel petrol hike. If petrol and diesel are included under GST then their price will be reduced by 25 to 30 rupees. Since the government had already spent lumpsum money on advertisements now they don’t have money for carrying out developmental work.”
The government has been giving assurance to citizens that soon steps will be taken to provide them relief from the recurring price hike but no results are visible yet. Citizens too are worried that if the same situation prevails then, soon petrol rates will cross Rs 100 per litre. Rising fuel prices will eventually lead to a hike in prices of several commodities and services. Fuel price hike was deferred for 19 days on account of the Karnataka assembly polls. After the conclusion of election the nation witnessed an overall increase in the prices of petrol by Rs 2.84 per litre whereas, diesel has gone up by Rs 2.60 during the same period.
BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said, “The government is working towards resolving the issue of fuel price hike. Congress and left parties are politicising this issue. If fuel prices come under GST ambit, rates will come down by 30 to 35 rupees. We had put forward a proposal before the GST council to include fuel under GST ambit, but Congress and left parties are opposing it. They are blaming the government for petrol price hike and trying to derive political mileage out of it.”
While no action has been taken by the government to control increasing fuel prices its ministers are busy giving statements pertaining to the same. Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan stated that the government is looking at ways to keep increasing fuel prices in check. On the other hand, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said that it is difficult to curtail petrol and diesel prices as India is linked to the global economy. He added that reducing fuel prices by offering subsidy will affect the government’s spending on social welfare schemes. Gadkari said that for reducing petrol and diesel price the government will have to buy fuel at higher prices and offer a subsidy for it which is not economically viable. Thus, why are two ministers from the government issuing contradictory statements about fuel prices?
Shiv Sena spokesperson Dr. Manisha Kayande said, “No steps have been taken by the government to control fuel prices. This is the same BJP which had made an allegation against Congress for a minimal hike in petrol prices. There is lack of coordination between BJP ministers regarding contradictory statements issued by them. Even though funds are required for development projects but people should not bear the burden of fuel price hike. The government should ensure that petrol prices don’t touch 90 to 100 rupees.”
If the government fails to take necessary steps to control increasing fuel prices it might face a backlash from the voters in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. When global oil prices had fallen the government had increased excise duty nine times totalling Rs 11.77 per litre on petrol and Rs 13.47 on diesel from November 2014 to January 2016. However, when global oil prices started cooling down the government only cut the tax by Rs 2 per litre only once.
Senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily said, “Petrol price hike is totally unjustified. States like Maharashtra impose high excise duty on fuel. When crude oil prices fall the benefit should be passed on to the customers. Thus, the BJP government is misleading the people. They are not bothered about the welfare of citizens and have failed to control inflation. Why did the government spend more than Rs 250 crores on advertisements? At least fuel prices should have been cut in the states ruled by BJP.”
Former Union finance minister P. Chidambaram said that the government can reduce the petrol price by as much as Rs 25 per litre. Mr Chidambaram tweeted to explain about the burden of taxes imposed on the retail price of petrol. “It is possible to cut up to Rs 25 per litre, but the government will not. They will cheat the people by cutting the price by Rs 1 or 2 per litre of petrol,” he said.