War of words over fuel price rise: BJP calls unprecedented fuel rates 'momentary difficulty'; Congress says Centre 'crossed all limits'

The unprecedented hike in the prices of fuel have drawn unfavourable comments for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government. However, most of the flak received by the party on social media was its own doing.

With the Opposition finding BJP in the line of fire over skyrocketing prices of important commodities, the party did itself the most damage by putting out comical charts trying to explain away the massive price rise. While the infographic failed to define a scale and showed a whopping 72 Rs per litre price as significantly lower than UPA era Rs 56.61 rate visually, it also failed to explain its point which was apparently to highlight that the percentage hike during UPA era was much higher.


The Congress retweeted the graph and even offered a correction to it. Its president Rahul Gandhi, who led the Opposition-called Bharat Bandh agitation, claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi actually managed to surpass the 70-year-long Congress rule and managed to do something that was never done.



"Narendra Modi used to say that nothing has happened in 70 years and we will do that in four years. It is true, what he has done in four years has not happened in 70 years. Wherever you see, one Indian is fighting another. Wherever you go, they divide people — one religion with another, one caste with another and one state pitted against the other," he said. Rahul flayed Modi for his stoic silence over rising fuel prices, tumbling rupee, Rafale fighter jet deal and agrarian distress in the country.

Former prime minister and veteran economist Manmohan Singh asserted that the BJP-led government has "crossed all limits". "The Modi government has done a lot which is not in national interest. Now it has crossed the limit and time is coming to change it," he said. The former prime minister said all sections of society -- youth, farmers and common people — are unhappy with the Modi government, which has failed to fulfil promises made to the people.  

Former finance minister P Chidambaram made light of the government's claims that the surge in petrol and diesel prices was due to factors beyond its control. "The biggest joke of the year is BJP saying that the government is not responsible for the hike in petrol and diesel prices! Little children also know that the harsh taxes imposed by the central government on petrol and diesel are the reason for the price hike," Chidambaram said. "Why is the federal government firmly refusing to bring petrol and diesel under GST tax system? The price of crude oil was $ 107. Now the price of crude oil is $ 78! Why? Why?" he asked. Meanwhile, Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) flayed the government for its insensitivity towards people's woes and trying to propagate lies through clever use of data. "A serious government would work to help the suffering people. Modi, instead, looks to create a graph to tell a lie. The priorities of this government," Yechury said.

"High fuel prices are a direct outcome of gross economic mismanagement under Modi. He or his ministers don't have the empathy for suffering people to offer any solace. Only more slogans and PR is what they offer," he said. The Left parties took out a separate rally in the national capital and had called protest marches in West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh amid other states.

Party's rebel leader, and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha too criticised the government for blaming fuel price rise and rupee's depreciation on global factors.

Meanwhile, the BJP said the hike in fuel prices was a "momentary difficulty" due to international constraints and claimed the shutdown was a complete failure.

"The petroleum need of the global world today is under severe restrictions because of non-availability and limited supply. We are not trying to justify the price hike. The NDA government has been trying its best to contain inflation. It has succeeded on numerous fronts," Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, adding that inflation was 10.4 percent between 2009-14 of UPA rule and is now 4.7 percent.

The BJP also claimed that the Congress had deliberately announced the bandh against rising fuel prices and tumbling rupee against US dollar as it knew that Delhi High Court would dismiss on Monday the pleas of Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi against the income tax notice for reassessment of tax returns for financial year 2011-2012.

"Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi knew very well that they are going to lose the case in the High Court... (that) the verdict is going to be against the Gandhi family... that is the reason why they gave a call for the Bharat Bandh on Monday," BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said.

Amid all this, a Rajasthan minister stoked a controversy by advising people to reduce their expenses to deal with rising fuel prices, a comment slammed by the Congress as "arrogant" and "insensitive".

Rajkumar Rinwa said people do not understand that fuel prices are rising as consumption is increasing. He also claimed that the tax revenues from fuel were being used for the Kerala flood relief operations. "The government is making efforts to reduce the fuel prices by reducing tax. Expenditure is being made in thousands of crores on flood relief all around (the country) for which money is required," he told reporters.

Reacting to Rinwa's statement, Congress's Rajasthan chief Sachin Pilot said, "Such remarks from a BJP leader tell you they are very arrogant and they are insensitive to the needs of people."  "When people are suffering they are making it worse by such outlandish statements," he told reporters.

However, distanced from the war of words on fuel price rise, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan met BJP president Amit Shah at the party office triggering speculation whether the government could consider steps to reduce the prices.

The continuous surge in the petrol-diesel prices in the last fortnight has brought the opposition parties together attacking the government and demanding a cut in import duty on the crude and other steps to check the prices.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Sep 11, 2018 16:01 PM

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