M A I N   N E W S

Congress joins petro price hike protest
*Left to observe protest day on June 13
*BJP nationwide demonstrations today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 6
The fuel price hike evoked sharp criticism from all across the political spectrum Right, Left and the Centre and in a rare unanimity they demanded that the Centre reconsider the steep hike in petrol and diesel prices.

However, in a defiant stand, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora said there would be no rethink on petrol and diesel price hike, which were raised to Rs 4 and Rs 2 respectively.

While the BJP stated that it would organise nation-wide demonstrations and road blockades tomorrow, the Left parties and trade unions said they have decided to observe June 13 as a protest day demanding a roll back of the hike.

Political compulsions forced the Congress to urge the UPA coalition to reconsider the fuel price hike. With Assembly elections in UP and Punjab scheduled next year, the party feels that it would be sending a wrong signal if it did not voice their concerns in favour of the common man.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said the hike was necessitated by global oil prices but admitted it was "too steep" for the common man. He hoped the government would take "necessary steps" to reduce the burden.

The four Left parties, CPI(M), CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc, which prop up the government from outside, asked their state units to immediately carry out demonstrations, rallies and picketing in various parts to culminate in the nationwide protest action on June 13, a joint statement said.

A large number of workers belonging to the Left-supported trade unions, demonstrated in the Capital terming the decision to hike petrol prices as "unjustifiable" and demanded its immediate rollback.

Samajwadi Party, TDP and Asom Gana Parishad have also decided to join the nationwide protest on that day, the Left parties said adding other non-Congress, non-BJP parties were being contacted to join the action programme.

BJP Spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said the increase could have been absorbed by the government because the excise, customs and sales tax component formed nearly 60 per cent of the cost of the petroleum produce. ''The government had looted the people of Rs 1,26,000 crore by way of taxes.''

He said the hike was the seventh price increase effected by the UPA after it assumed power. The subsidy component of the petroleum products which was at Rs 11,300 crore during the NDA regime had now dwindled down to a mere Rs 3,000 crore, he claimed.

Not to be left behind, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) is chalking out a strategy to launch a two prone attack on the Congress at the Centre and State. SAD General Secretary Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said the state government should reduce the octrai and sales taxes on petrol and diesel to lessen the burden of farmers and common man.

He said the party would in coordination with the NDA allies launch an agitation against the anti-people policies of Manmohan Singh government and Amarinder Singh government.


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