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Fuel price cut shows Centre's concern for people, says BJP; Congress calls it 'panic reaction'

Congress today slammed the Centre's move to slash fuel prices.

Fuel price cut shows Centre's concern for people, says BJP; Congress calls it 'panic reaction'

NEW DELHI: BJP president Amit Shah on Thursday said that the Centre's reduction in petrol and diesel prices by Rs 2.50 a litre reflected the Narendra Modi-led government's concern towards the countrymen, which evoked a sharp reaction from the main opposition party Congress.

Soon after Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the cut and made an appeal to the state government to announce further relief in this regard, Shah took to Twitter and welcomed the Centre's decision.

He said the Centre's move to slash fuel prices shows its sensitivity towards people's welfare.

While addressing a press conference, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra too expressed the hope that people will get a total relief of Rs 5 at the earliest as the Centre has asked states to effect an equal amount of tax cut in the oil prices.

He also took a swipe at the previous Congress-led government at the Centre, saying it had "pawned" national resources by issuing oil bonds while the Narendra Modi government showed its sensitivity by reducing the prices.

The government has also expressed confidence it will fulfill its fiscal deficit targets, Patra noted.

The Centre earlier announced a Rs 2.50 per litre cut in petrol and diesel prices after it reduced excise duty by Rs 1.50 a litre and asked oil companies to absorb another Re 1. 

The Congress, however, hit out at the Narendra Modi government over what it described as a "meagre" reduction in excise duty on petrol and diesel.

The Congress party said the move is like applying a band-aid after inflicting a thousand wounds on the people of the country.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala claimed it was a "panic reaction" by the government after facing public ire and an "imminent defeat" for the BJP in upcoming assembly elections in five states, and said the step will bring little relief to the people as it is like "reducing death sentence to life imprisonment".

Alleging over "Rs 13-lakh-crore fuel loot" through the imposition of heavy excise duty on petrol and diesel and an equal amount through VAT by BJP-ruled states, he said the people "cannot be befooled" anymore by the government and demanded answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

"Facing public ire and imminent defeat in the five election going states, Modi Government attempted to apply 'band-aid' on the thousand wounds inflicted by it by massive profiteering in the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene oil, cooking gas, CNG, PNG and natural gas.

"It is a panic reaction against the people's anger.

"Let Prime Minister Modi remember that he cannot befool the people of India. We challenge the PM and FM to answer to people," he told reporters.

The opposition party demanded that the fuel prices be brought to the 2014 level and that petrol and diesel be brought under the GST regime.

The Congress leader dubbed as "lies" Jaitley's claim that the tax base has risen under the NDA government and said the buoyancy in taxes is due to money collected through rise in excise duty on petrol and diesel in the last 52 months.

"Since May 2014, Modi Government has fleeced and duped the common people by draconian taxation of Rs 13 lakh crore. While FM Jaitley lies' again by saying that the increase in government revenue is on account of increase in tax base, he hides the Rs 13 lakh crore 'fuel loot' completely, which is fuelling the coffers of Modi Government. The PM and the FM must answer the people for this 13-lakh crore 'fuel loot'," he said.

Surjewala said the government must also answer to the people for hiking central excise duty on 12 occasions, raising the central excise on petrol by 211 pc and on diesel by 443 pc.
He said the customs duty has been increased manifold times too. 

When Congress demitted power in May 2014, central excise duty on petrol was merely Rs 9.23 per litre and the Modi government has raised it to Rs 19.48 per litre, he said, adding that in May 2014, excise duty on diesel was merely Rs 3.46/litre and the Modi government raised it to Rs 15.33/litre.

"Giving a paltry relief of Rs 1.50 per litre is insignificant and like a needle in the haystack," he said. Surjewala asked why the "fuel robbery continued when the prices of crude oil reduced by 45 per cent internationally".

He said on May 16, 2014, the price of crude oil was USD 107.09 per barrel and the present price of international crude is USD 86 per barrel, with the average crude price during 52 months of Modi government being USD 58 per barrel, nearly 45 pc less than the UPA tenure. Still, the petrol/diesel prices continue to skyrocket at much higher levels during Modi government, he said.

The Congress leader also questioned why the government was selling petrol and diesel "cheaper" to 29 countries.

The main opposition party also asked the government to explain the reasons for the rising prices of LPG and CNG.

(With Agency inputs)