Fuel price hike: Opposition-ruled states accuse Modi of 'step-motherly treatment'
Opposition-ruled states reacted strongly on Thursday to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks criticizing them for rising fuel prices. They accused him of trying to cover up his inadequacies and of seeking to divert attention away from the central government. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said Modi's statement on rising fuel prices reflected a "step-motherly" bias toward opposition-ruled states.
- In his first remark on rising fuel prices since the Russia-Ukraine war, Modi appeared to favor states governed by his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
- Notably, the Modi government has faced severe criticism for the fuel price hike and has been accused of "looting" the public.
- The Centre has been looking at alternative measures, including asking oil marketers to adjust their rates.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao said the prime minister "should feel ashamed" for his tax-cut remarks. He claimed there had been no hike in fuel tax since 2015 in his state. Meanwhile, Telangana minister KT Rama Rao took to Twitter and urged the Centre to scrap cess so petrol can be sold at Rs. 70 and diesel at Rs. 60 across India.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said Modi's VAT-cut pitch to opposition-ruled states has a "political agenda," calling his statements one-sided and misleading. She claimed that the Centre preferred BJP-ruled states while giving others a "step-motherly treatment." She said West Bengal has already been providing a Re. 1 fuel subsidy for three years, which the PM has not highlighted.
Modi is attempting to divert criticism by blaming states for the fuel price hike, said A Saravanan, a spokesperson for the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu. Petrol prices are skyrocketing due to the central government's cess on states, he said. "The PM, instead of giving gyan (advice), should give VAT to the state. There is no accountability on cess," he said.
Similarly, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray chastised the PM for his remarks. He said it is incorrect to say that fuel prices have risen due to the states. In Mumbai, one liter of diesel has Rs. 24.38 tax for the Centre and Rs. 22.37 is for the state, he said. Similarly, for petrol, 31.58 paise is central tax and 32.55 paise state tax, he added.
Modi stated that some governments' refusal to obey the Centre's tax reduction directive for fuel resulted in price increases in these states. "I am not criticizing anyone but request Maharashtra, West Bengal, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Jharkhand, and Tamil Nadu to reduce VAT now and give benefits to people," PM Modi said. He also praised Karnataka and Gujarat—BJP-administered states—for cutting VAT.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri jumped into the feud, saying that opposition-ruled states should drop fuel taxes instead of liquor taxes to make fuel cheaper. "Maharashtra government imposes Rs 32.15/liter on petrol and Congress-ruled Rajasthan Rs. 29.10. But BJP-ruled Uttarakhand levies only Rs. 14.51 and Uttar Pradesh Rs. 16.50. Protests cannot challenge facts!" he tweeted.
Fuel prices in India were hiked by Rs. 10/liter each on petrol and diesel through 14 rounds of revisions since March 22, ending a four-and-a-half-month-long hiatus on price revision. The rates were last hiked on April 6 when both petrol and diesel rates were increased by 80 paise/liter. Currently, petrol in Delhi costs Rs. 105.41/liter, diesel Rs. 96.67/liter, and CNG Rs. 71.61/kg.