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HomeNationFuel Prices Hiked 9th Time After Election Results. Is BJP Forgetting Its...

Fuel Prices Hiked 9th Time After Election Results. Is BJP Forgetting Its Promises?

Fuel prices were hiked again on Thursday for the ninth time in last 10 days. In Delhi, petrol and diesel rates were hiked by 80 paise a litre each, according to a price notification of state fuel retailers. 

A litre of petrol in the national capital will now cost ₹ 101.81 as against ₹ 101.01 previously, while diesel will be sold at ₹ 93.07 from ₹ 92.27 per litre earlier.

In Mumbai, petrol will be retailed at ₹ 116.72 per litre, while diesel will be sold at ₹ 100.94 per litre. Among the metro cities, fuel rates are the highest in Mumbai. The prices vary across the states due to value-added tax (VAT).

Senior Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said that the government had deliberately reduced petrol prices before elections to win polls. “Reducing fuel prices was their (BJP) poll strategy to win polls. Now they are compensating by increasing prices, in the guise of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. It’s a lie.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the Opposition had stated that the war in Ukraine had been going on for a long time but fuel prices are being hiked now. “Absolutely untrue. An increase in the price of global oil and also disruption to supply are happening since a couple of weeks ago and we are responding to it.”

“Even in 1951, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru could say that a Korean war can affect Indian inflation… But if today in a globally connected world, we say that Ukraine (war) is affecting us, it is not accepted,” Sitharaman said in Lok Sabha over the issue.

“We have not brought in extra burden. The global situation, a war-like situation is not a time when we are looking at racing. It has nothing to do with election time. If the oil market companies think that they are procuring a 15-day average at a higher rate, obviously we will have to bear,” she added

While in the opposition, the BJP had never squandered an opportunity to hit out at the government over price rises, particularly those of fuels, making the issue a major weapon in its attack against the Congress party.

However, after coming to power the party has not been able to control these prices. Instead of “failure of the government”, the party now blames “disturbance in the global oil flows” for the spiralling prices of fuels.

While at one level it maintains stoic silence on rising prices, on the other, BJP leaders put out distorted logic from time to time to explain the reasons for prices hitting the roof.

Stoking controversy in October 2021, the then Union minister for petroleum and natural gas Rameswar Teli said the middle class should bear the suffering of high prices to help the government to provide COVID-19 vaccines.

“Fuel prices aren’t high but include the tax levied. You must’ve taken a free vaccine, where will the money come from? You haven’t paid the money, this is how it was collected,” Teli said, much to the chagrin of the government.

In fact, such a narrative has been unabashedly pushed by a number of Union and state ministers of the BJP, much like they did in the aftermath of demonetisation that pushed crores of Indians towards avoidable suffering.

Another defence that the BJP employs to explain the fuel prices is that the previous Congress government left the country’s finances in such a bad shape that the current government has no choice but to keep taxes high on petrol and diesel.

While the Modi government may blame the “international situation” for the rising fuel prices, the fact of the matter remains that his government has kept levying higher and higher taxes even when crude oil in the international markets crashed to all-time lows.

In May 2012, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then serving as the chief minister of Gujarat, described the steepest fuel price hike ever approved by the then government as “a prime example of the failure of the Congress-led UPA”. The BJP and its leaders left no stone unturned to come down heavily on the Manmohan Singh government on the surge in fuel prices. They also promised to reduce fuel prices if the BJP made it to power.

In May 2014 when UPA left office and Modi took power, the cost of the Indian basket of crude oil stood at $113 per barrel. However, within six months by January 2015, the crude oil price fell to $50 per barrel. It also further crashed to $29 in January 2016.

But the Modi government did not slash prices to help customers.

The realisation of that promise only appears to be a pipe dream for the citizens given that the Modi government has overseen an unprecedented rise in auto fuel prices.

On the contrary, it has only levied higher taxes. According to estimates, the excise duty on petrol and diesel was increased 12 times between May 2014 and September 2017, and furthermore in the succeeding years.

While the COVID-19 pandemic pushed several into penury, the Modi government between March and May 2020 raised excise duty on petrol by Rs 13 per litre and diesel by Rs 15 per litre. In fact, due to the pandemic, the price of India’s crude basket crashed to $19 in April 2020.

Although oil marketing companies are allowed to fix their own prices based on the international scenario, the major reason for skyrocketing prices is due to taxes levied by the Union government and states.

For instance, in Delhi, for Rs 100 of petrol, a customer pays Rs 45.3 in tax, of which central tax accounts for Rs 29 and state tax Rs 16.3.

As per the data put out by Stats of India, the tax collected in different states for Rs 100 of petrol: Rs 52.5 in Maharashtra, Rs 52.4 in Andhra Pradesh, Rs 51.6 in Telangana, Rs 50.8 in Rajasthan, Rs 50.6 in Madhya Pradesh, Rs 50.2 in Kerala and Rs 50 in Bihar.

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