Bowing to public anger finally Centre winked on Thursday and announced a cut of Rs 2.50 per litre on diesel and petrol across the country.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that the Centre and oil companies will take a hit of Rs 1.50 per litre and Re 1 per litre respectively in their revenue. He also said he would write to all the states to cut their respective taxes.
In a couple of hours, several BJP-ruled states also announced a matching Rs 2.50 cut, taking the total reduction to Rs 5. States like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Assam and Tripura announced a cut in Value Added Tax (VAT) of up to Rs 2.5 per litre to effect a Rs 5 per litre reduction in pump rates.
The BJP government at the Centre had raised excise duty on petrol by Rs 11.77 a litre and that on diesel by Rs 13.47 a litre in nine installments between November 2014 and January 2016 to shore up finances as global oil prices fell. But then cut the tax just once in October last year by Rs 2 a litre. Today reduction in excise duty, only the second in four years of BJP
However the Principle opposition party Congress attacked the government for a “meager” reduction in excise duty on petrol and diesel.
“After inflicting a thousand wounds, Modi Government applies band-aid of a marginal cut in the prices of petrol and diesel,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.
The Congress also claimed the move was just a “panic reaction” by the Narendra Modi government against people’s anger.
Calling it an election gimmick, the Congress said the BJP will face imminent defeat in the upcoming Assembly elections of five states.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also hit out at the Centre for asking the states to reduce taxes and demanded a rollback of the Rs 10 cess it levied on fuel.
“We (Bengal government) have already reduced fuel prices. You (Centre) have increased cess by Rs 10. Now you have reduced it by Rs 2.50 and you are asking others to do it. Others (states) are not your servants. You roll back the entire increase of Rs 10 and then talk,” Mamata said.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also echoed similar sentiments and said the Modi government is cheating people. “The Central government should decrease the prices by at least Rs 10 per litre,” Kejriwal said in a tweet.
The Left parties also described the Centre’s reduction of the excise duty as “too little and too late”, saying it was like rubbing salt on the wounds of the common man.
“The common man was suffering and Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government kept watching. This meager reduction is like rubbing salt on the wounds of the common man, who is reeling under the rising prices,” CPI (M) leader Mohammed Salim said.