New Delhi: With non-BJP ruled states refusing to cut taxes on fuel, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Saturday questioned Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his "reluctant allies" if they are only committed to tweets and television bytes when it comes to giving relief to the common man.
In a Facebook post titled 'The oil prices and the hypocrisy of the opposition', Jaitley accused the government critics of doing a 'volte face' by terming the cut in petrol and diesel prices by Rs 2.5 per litre by the Centre as 'bad economics'. He said states collect extra taxes when oil prices go up since their taxes are ad valorem.
"Yet we have a situation where a number of non-BJP non-NDA States have refused to pass on any benefit to the consumer. What are the people supposed to conclude?
"Are Rahul Gandhi and his reluctant allies only committed to tweets and television bytes when it comes to give relief to the common man?" Jaitley said. He said the challenges thrown up by the increase in the international price of crude oil is serious and cannot be resolved by either the tweets or television bytes of some opposition leaders.
"Must not the non-BJP States be candid with the people and tell them that both in 2017 and 2018 they refused to give any relief to the people even from their higher revenues. They sent out tweets and gave television bytes but when it came to performance, they looked the other way,? Jaitley said.
The government had on Thursday announced a Rs 2.5 per litre cut in petrol and diesel prices, of which Rs 1.5 per litre is on account of reduction in excise duty and the remaining Rs 1 per litre would be absorbed by oil marketing companies. It also appealed to the state governments to cut VAT rates. BJP-ruled states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Assam, Jharkhand, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh followed suit.
Non-BJP ruled states like Kerala, Karnataka and West Bengal have refused to cut taxes.
Jaitley said the political crisis in Venezuela and Libya has adversely impacted oil producing countries and the US sanctions on Iran also have increased uncertainties over supplies. He said the high cost of crude oil has also impacted the currency situation.
"India's macroeconomic fundamentals with regard to its fiscal deficit, inflation, foreign exchange reserves etc. Are fairly stable. Tax collections are encouraging," Jaitley said. However, a high cost of crude oil adversely impacts the current account deficit. That, in turn, impacts the currency.
Additionally, the hardening of the dollar has further impacted most global currencies. "Both the factors have an impact on the cost of fuel available to a citizen," he said, adding the cost of crude oil has reached its highest level in the past four years.
Stating that the government critics rejoiced the political consequences of the increase of the crude prices, Jaitley said when the price was reduced, the critics did a "volte face and argued that this is bad economics". "Even Rahul Gandhi, whose party had inflicted a double-digit inflation on India during the past five years of UPA-II, gave television bytes and released tweets advocating a price reduction," Jaitley said.
"Let me categorically assure all that there is no going back on deregulation of oil prices," he added. He said the NDA government has an "exemplary record" of fiscal prudence and has maintained the gradual glide path since 2014 to bring down fiscal deficit. "We will continue to do so". "No Government can be insensitive towards its people," Jaitley added.
In October 2017, when the oil prices were rising, the Centre cut excise duty by Rs 2. "We have requested the States to make a similar cut. Most of the BJP-NDA States did so. The others refused to do so," Jaitley said, adding in an extraordinary situation, the capacity of an economy to give relief will depend on its fiscal strength.