M A I N   N E W S

Left threatens stir against petro price hike
T R Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

* Hopes to rope in non-Congress, non-BJP parties in proposed nationwide protest.

* To give a comprehensive note to government of its severe disagreement on policy matters encompasing foreign affairs.

* Coming together of non-Congress, non-BJP parties can lead to the formation of a Third Alternative: Left leaders.

New Delhi, June 1
Buoyed by the recent triumph in the Assembly elections in West Bengal and Kerala, the Left parties adopted a more aggressive and interventionist strategy by warning the Congress-led UPA government not to hike petro product produces.

If the government went ahead with a hike in petro prices, the Left threatened a nationwide agitation in concert with non-Congress and non-BJP parties.

"If the government announces a hike in the prices of petrol and diesel which is likely next week, then the Left parties and other organisations will come out spontaneously to oppose the move," CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat told mediapersons here today after a meeting of the four Left parties supporting the Manmohan Singh coalition government from outside.

Simultaneously, the Left parties will prepare a "comprehensive note" listing the Centre's failures and their serious differences with official policies encompassing foreign policy matters as well.

Non-implementation of pro-people commitments in the National Common Minimum Programme like women's reservation Bill or the legislation on

In finalising their strategy for taking on the government, the focus was on not raising the prices of petroleum products as the UPA government had already hiked fuel prices four times in the last two years.

"It is a wrong time to hike the prices as people are already burdened with inflation," Mr Karat argued and suggested that the government should consider reducing customs and excise duties on petroleum products.

He made it clear that the Left was not for a "negotiated increase" in petro prices. They were totally against it as it will have a multiplier effect on the prices of essential commodities that are already high.

Asked which parties are they approaching in case of a nationwide protest, Forward Bloc's Debabrata Biswas and RSP's Abani Roy replied all parties barring the Congress and the BJP.

Mr Karat said in case of a petro price hike there would be spontaneous protests like demonstrations. The date of a nationwide action, including a general strike, would be mutually agreed upon with the other parties.

Interestingly, the meeting of Left leaders also asked the Election Commission not to get embroiled in the controversy over the Office of Profit issue before Parliament discussed it in the monsoon session.

They noted that the government had decided to present again the Office of Profit Bill to Parliament as President A.P.J Abdul Kalam had returned it to the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha for reconsideration. 


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