Cut in fuel prices an eyewash, says Congress

Oppn. party links reduction to bypoll defeats, to go ahead with protests this month

Claiming that the Narendra Modi government increased diesel prices by as much as ₹26 in 2021 before announcing an excise duty reduction of ₹10 on the eve of Diwali, the Congress on Friday said it would go ahead with its agitation programme against inflation from November 14.

Party general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal said the reduction was not adequate and asserted the party’s jan jagran abhiyan between November 14 and 29 as would go ahead as announced earlier.

Asked why Congress-ruled States had not reduced Value Added Taxes (VAT) and other local tax components, Mr. Venugopal said the party “will look into it but already States like Chhattisgarh have lower rates compared with others”.

“During the UPA, the tax component was around ₹9 but now it’s between ₹27 and ₹32. If they reduce this excise duty, petrol would be around ₹50 a litre. If the Centre brings down taxes, States will also do,” Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel told reporters in Raipur. He added that the Congress government in the State didn’t add even rupee more to VAT than what was charged by the previous BJP government.

“Look at the lies about the loot. The Modi government this year alone has increased the price of diesel by ₹26. By reducing the price by ₹10, they are trying to garner credit and say a big Deepavali gift has been given,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters.

Calling the Centre’s cut in excise duties on petrol and diesel as an ‘eyewash’, Mr. Venugopal told reporters that the Congress would go ahead with its agitation programmes over inflation and fuel price hike later this month.

“They have to reduce the hike in excise duty on petrol and diesel to pre-COVID levels. The Central government was under pressure to do this because of by-elections and the agitational programmes of the Congress and other Opposition parties,” he told reporters.

Several other Congress leaders including former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra linked the excise duty cuts to the ‘setback’ to the BJP in the recent bypolls in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka among others.

“This isn’t a decision taken from the heart but out of fear. The answer to the loot by an extorting government should be given in the upcoming elections,” Ms. Vadra tweeted on Thursday.

“The results of the 30 Assembly and 3 LS by-elections have produced a by-product. The centre has cut excise duties on petrol and diesel! It is a confirmation of our charge that fuel prices are high mainly because of high taxes. And our charge that high fuel taxes is because of the greed of the central government,” Mr. Chidambaram tweeted.

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