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Fuel Prices: Oppn plans to stall Parliament
Cong in a huddle, may announce token rollback
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, March 2
As an aggressive Opposition geared up to corner the UPA over fuel price hike in Parliament tomorrow, Congress core group, headed by party president Sonia Gandhi, went into a huddle today to devise an effective damage control strategy.

As a first step, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is likely to meet Congress MPs tomorrow to explain economic compulsions that has forced the government to raise fuel prices. A discussion with the allies is also not ruled out. The Congress president is expected to articulate party’s position when she addresses the parliamentary party meeting on March 4.

Although there was no official word on the two-hour deliberations, UPA sources said the government was not inclined to revise fuel prices immediately as it would be seen as a victory for the Opposition. However, it is keeping its options open and may announce a token rollback on diesel prices when the Finance Bill is put to vote, provided there is an improvement in international prices. The government is resisting any revision in fuel prices because of the tight financial conditions it faces, but political compulsions may eventually force it to backtrack. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has virtually ruled out a rethink on the issue in his interaction with mediapersons on his way back from Saudi Arabia yesterday on the plea that the economy would be able to absorb this minimal increase.

While the Opposition protests, including a dawn-to-dusk motor vehicle strike in Kerala today, are on expected lines, the Congress was embarrassed when its allies — the Trinamul Congress and the DMK — also joined in to press for a rollback.

While the government is devising a counter strategy, Opposition parties are all set to put the ruling combine on the mat tomorrow when Parliament reconvenes after a four-day Holi break. The BJP and the Left parties will hold separate meetings in to finalise their floor strategy.

The party will also attempt to create a wedge between the Congress and its allies. “We will expose leaders like Mamata Banerjee who professes to be concerned about the aam aadmi...she is willing to strike but not to kill,” added BJP leader Arun Jaitley.

While the BJP will speak to its NDA allies, the Left parties will involve the RJD and SP in their strategy session. They are also banking on the Telugu Desam Party, AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal, which are also invited for their morning meeting. Putting up a brave face, Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said the differences would be sorted out and the government would defeat any cut motion brought by the Opposition.







No threat to govt: Trinamool, DMK

The Trinamool Congress and the DMK on Tuesday made it clear that there is no threat to the government. “We are in the UPA government and we will continue to be in it,” Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee said in Kolkata.

In Chennai, Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK CM M Karunanidhi, also spoke in a similar vein. “There will be different views in a coalition but it doesn’t mean that the alliance has to break,” she said. 



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