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Petrol price hike haunts BJP

Till 2014, before coming to power in fact, even after forming a government, Modi and his party leaders vigorously attacked UPA government for fuel price rise and inflation. The drama by the then opposition BJP leaders was worth watching. But when the same leaders came to power since 2014, maintained silence on the similar issue, on which they attacked Manmohan Singh the former prime minister of India. They criticise everyone but Modi government does not take criticism kindly. Those who do it are labelled anti-national or anti-Sanskari. The soaring prices of petrol and diesel across India have troubled citizens. This government is clueless. Modi is touring and his ministers are mum. Modi is the first PM in the last four years in office who has never faced the media.

Healthy criticism is a thing of the past now. When the Bharatiya Janata Party was campaigning in full swing in 2014, it raised issues that resonated with the common man. And Bollywood stars like Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Paresh Rawal routinely criticised the UPA government. History can be ruthless, especially in the age of Twitter and YouTube. No one would know this better than leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The old tweets and videos of Modi and other BJP leaders ranting against rising fuel prices during the UPA’s tenure have come back to haunt them. These tweets are from the period between 2011 and 2013 when fuel prices were skyrocketing because international crude oil prices had risen to over $100 per barrel. Currently, international crude prices are at around $53 per barrel so in that sense the then UPA was much less to be blamed for the high fuel prices as compared to the current Modi government. But back then; it didn’t stop BJP leaders from launching scathing attacks on the then prime minister Manmohan Singh. Petrol and diesel prices were deregulated in 2010 and 2014 respectively. If you read about it then you would find it is actually a good step because the amount saved can be allocated for different areas like education and other services. It was never bad when diesel and petrol were deregulated (in 2009-10, Kirit Parikh panel for freeing petrol, diesel prices). It was never bad when subsidy from LPG was removed (after 9 cylinders, in 2012). The decision taken was a right step as it removed the government subsidy burden as they can now invest the money for other developmental work.

The price of petrol and diesel in Delhi was Rs 77.47 and 68.53 respectively. Still our current government blamed the Congress. While, there is no denying that Congress had their share of scams and corruption, but the ruling government is not a saint as they too are involved in scams and corruption. Instead of coming up with solutions to the pressing issues plaguing the nation, the current regime puts blame on the Congress. Likewise, the opposition parties don’t offer a workable solution to help people. Everybody is interested in pointing fingers rather than solving the problem. It is disheartening to see such a sad state of affairs in the largest democracy of the world.

In this scenario, the silence of many influential people who were vocal about rising prices during UPA rule didn’t go unnoticed. Twitter users dug out old tweets of celebrities and politicians to reveal their hypocrisy. The biggest superstar of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan, may have forgotten what his tweet, dated May 26, 2012, read, but netizens rarely ignore anything. Big B wrote a couplet on rising petrol price. On May 23, 2012, the megastar even joked how it was enough to sprinkle few drops of petrol on a vehicle to run it. Now, he is just quiet.

The NDA government planned its campaign for the 2014 general elections on petrol price hike. The ‘Ab Ki Baar Modi Sarkar’ tagline was used repeatedly and UPA was warned it would not be forgiven for rising fuel prices. Cut to 2019, the Narendra Modi government is doing nothing to contain the prices. What will be the punch line ahead of Lok Sabha elections next year, I wonder!

The BJP propaganda machine worked at two levels – First, spreading technically incorrect and baseless rumours and second, in which the senior leaders blamed the then ruling government. Did you receive that forward who suggested that Indian petrol prices are higher than most countries, including Pakistan?

Maybe, the petrol price hikes by the UPA 2 government were indeed a failure on their part. However, the petrol price hike now is even a bigger failure on Modi’s part.

It is a bitter truth in India that every political party use “Jumla”. Narendra Modi knew that there is nothing Congress can do to control petrol prices, but still he wanted to influence the public and he did. Now Congress is blaming BJP (another jumla) for petrol prices even if they know that there is nothing BJP can do about it. But they want to win the hearts of the public by offering sympathy. From tweeting to giving interviews to the media, the BJP did everything to blame the UPA for rising fuel prices. But now that they are in power, the party is brazenly arguing in favour of higher fuel prices in the country.

Not only have they gone silent, but they are travelling back in time and erasing their past too. One such example is film star Akshay Kumar who has deleted his old tweet from 2012 when he took a dig at rising fuel prices. So, does it mean that higher fuel prices do not hurt the ‘common janata party’ now? Akshay Kumar or Paresh Rawal or Anupam Kher who have become quiet post 2014. Many hypocrisy videos have gone viral. BJP which was in opposition then explained the economics of fuel pricing. From ‘Tel Ka Tadka’ featuring Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to ‘Mar diya Mehengai Ne’ by Sushma Swaraj – such satirical comments are no longer available. Gone are the days when movies were made on issues that challenged the economic policies of the government.

Why are celebrities and leaders mum? Because the troll sena is paid to keep things look normal. And this normalisation of the pain has become so common that now citizens are confused. Modi fans who cried about inflation, fuel prices, etc. are now arguing better than even Raghuram Rajan in explaining the theory of fuel pricing. But why didn’t they know about this before 2014?

Nowadays, in B-town, opinion matters only if it’s in praise of the government. Silence and deletion is a preferred option. It might save their career but won’t assure a better future for people. If Modi gets defeated tomorrow, will they start speaking up again? And even if they do, will they still be credible?

(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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