M A I N   N E W S

CPM gets petrol price hike deferred again
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 31
The CPM appears to have succeeded, at least for the time being, in influencing the Union Cabinet to postpone any decision to raise the prices of petrol and petroleum products.

A meeting of the Union Cabinet scheduled earlier for Friday evening and then for Saturday morning were called off on last minute on both days because there was no agreement among the ministers on the issue, claimed CPM sources.

Left sources said they worked on the partners in the ruling UPA to persuade them not to agree to an outright hike in petrol prices, especially at a time when inflation in the country had gone beyond eight per cent.

The Left has been urging the government to affect cuts in excise and custom duties on petroleum crude and impose windfall tax on private companies importing petrol and petroleum products. Their contention is that the profits of the private companies had multiplied in the same proportion as the rise in the global crude price. But finance minister P. Chidambram has been resisting the proposal and considers a stiff hike in petrol and diesel prices as the only remedy.

Seeing resistance from the finance ministry and an effective campaign all over to raise petrol prices, the CPM turned to the UPA partners and it reportedly divided the work of talking to them between general secretary Parkash Karat and Politburo member Sitaram Yechury. Karat took charge of speaking to the DMK and PMK.

Sources said someone from the CPM also spoke to petroleum minister Murli Deora and he seemed amenable to the suggestion that a modest hike in the prices should be accompanied by some cut in excise duties as well. But that could be done only by the finance minister.

The sources claimed that the allies too saw reason in their argument and the UPA partners as well as Deora argued for a balanced approach on these lines when prior the Union Cabinet a group of ministers chaired by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee deliberated on this issue.



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