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Congress keeps pressure on, blasts BJP
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 7
Worried that the party will pay a heavy political price for the latest fuel price hike, the Congress continued to press the UPA government for a partial rollback in order to the ease the burden on the common man.

The Congress persisted with its position and even remained hopeful that the party’s request will not be overlooked even though the government today indicated that a rollback might not be possible.

“We have apprised the government of the party’s concerns.... it is now upto the government to take a decision,” party spokesperson Rajiv Shukla said here today, while maintaining that it was because of the party pressure that the government had not hiked the prices of kerosene and cooking gas.

Even though it kept up the pressure on the Manmohan Singh government, the Congress also hit out at the BJP for resorting to street protests on this issue, saying that the price of petroleum products was raised 15 times during the two years (from 2004-2006) of the NDA regime.

The price of petrol went up from Rs 28.94 to Rs 35.71 and of diesel from Rs 17 to 21.74 during this period. The international oil price increased by 38 per cent while the price of petrol in India went up by 35 per cent.

Mr Shukla said in contrast to the NDA regime, there had been a 107 per cent increase in the international prices of crude during the past two years while the hike in petrol prices during the UPA regime had been 31 per cent.

The present ruling combine has raised the prices only nine times as compared to 15 times by the previous government.

“The BJP leaders did not raise any protests then nor did they go in for ‘chakka jam’ as they are doing now,” Mr Shukla commented.

Nevertheless, the Congress has deliberately moved in to distance itself from the government’s decision as there is a growing concern in the party that the latest fuel price hike comes at a time when the common man is already reeling under the burden of spiralling prices of essential commodities.

Party insiders maintained that this matter had been worrying the party for several months and Congress president Sonia Gandhi had specifically referred to it in her speech at the meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) during the Budget session.

“More than the price of petrol, the party is really worried about the steep rise in prices of items like wheat and dal,” said a senior AICC functionary.

There is a genuine concern that the party’s pro-poor image has taken a beating and its poll plank “Congress ka haath, aam admi ke saath” has now been reduced to an empty slogan.

It is the Congress belief that it will be able to preserve its “ aam admi” plank by publicly demanding that the government reconsider the hike. At the same time, it hopes to blunt the Left opposition on this issue.

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