NEW DELHI: Opposition parties on Saturday launched a countrywide agitation protesting fuel price hike and some UPA allies also sent a stern warning, prompting the Congress to ask its party-ruled states to reduce taxes on petroleum products to give reprieve to the common man.
Coming down heavily on the government for striking another blow on the common man, the political parties demanded an immediate rollback of the hike in diesel price by Rs 3, domestic LPG by `50 per cylinder and kerosene by Rs 2 per litre.
Facing the heat, Congress asked party-ruled states to reduce the customs duty. It said all state governments can bring down taxes according to their financial capacity.
Holding protests across the country, the BJP accused the government of being insensitive to the sufferings of the common man and imposing “economic emergency” on the country.
The leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, Ms Sushma Swaraj said this was the 10th time that the UPA government has hiked fuel prices.
“Congress came to power on the slogan ‘Congress ka haath, aam aadmi ke saath’ but has become totally insensitive to the sufferings of the common,” she said.
The Left parties — CPI-M, CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc — asked all their units to immediately launch hartals, demonstrations and other protest actions across the country.
The West Bengal Chief Minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee, who heads the Trinamool Congress, the second largest UPA ally, said she was pained by the Centre’s move and asked it to reduce LPG price.
On her part, she announced withdrawal of cess of Rs.16 per LPG cylinder in the state with immediate effect.
Slamming the Manmohan Singh government, Samajwadi Party held out a veiled threat of withdrawing outside support to the UPA government.
Hitting out at the Centre, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Ms Mayawati accused it of being indifferent to the suffering of the common man.
The BSP chief said the price hike would pose an additional burden on the middle class and the poorer sections and demanded an immediate rollback.
Attacking the government for “striking another blow” to the aam aadmi, the Left parties said the hikes come at a time “when the people are suffering from all round price rise and the inflation rate has crossed nine per cent”.
They said the increase in diesel price would raise the transportation cost and affect farmers, while those in kerosene and LPG cylinders would hit the poor.
In a joint statement, the parties said the withdrawal of five percentage points in customs duty on crude oil, imposed last year, “shows how such taxes are levied by the Centre to raise revenue and this is the main cause for the high prices of petroleum products”.
The statement was signed by the CPI-M general secretary, Mr Prakash Karat, CPI’s Mr A B Bardhan, RSP’s Mr T J Chandrachoodan and Forward Bloc’s Mr Debabrata Biswas.
Opposing the hike, the Bihar Chief Minister, Mr Nitish Kumar said the Congress was “synonymous” with price spiral and whenever the party had come to power, prices of essential commodities had shot up.
The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab and main opposition INLD in Haryana also lashed out at the Centre for effecting “hefty and unwarranted” hike in fuel prices.
In Andhra Pradesh, former chief ministers Mr K Rosaiah and Mr N Chandrababu Naidu asked the Centre to reconsider its decision.
In Orissa, the ruling BJP and other political parties including the Left staged a dharna demanding immediate rollback.
In Jammu and Kashmir, protest demonstrations were held against the Centre’s move.