Mamata demands withdrawal of fuel price hike


Kolkata : West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday threatened to hit the streets if the centre did not withdraw its decision to hike petrol and diesel prices.

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She said “the situation is moving towards a political confrontation”.

In a fresh stand-off with the central government, Banerjee, also the Trinamool Congress chief, called the decision to hike fuel prices as “unilateral” and said the central government had not cared to consult any of its United Progressive Alliance (UPA) allies.

Petrol and diesel prices went up in seven states, including West Bengal, following the readjustments done by the oil companies based on local levies.

“We were not told anything. It was a suo moto decision to implement a policy that was adopted way back in 2003. I’m shocked,” said Banerjee, whose party is the second-largest constituent in the Congress-led UPA.

“When you (central government) had not implemented the policy for nine years, then you should have reviewed it before taking a decision sitting in your air-conditioned chambers to increase the burden on the common man,” Banerjee told reporters, soon after returning from Delhi.

After the readjustments, petrol in Kolkata would be dearer by Rs.2.52 a litre to sell at Rs.76.13 per litre while diesel rates would rise by Rs.0.92 per litre to sell at Rs.44.66.

Mocking at the decision, she said: “You (the centre) sat with the oil companies and decided. It is akin to a king giving his wealth to the queen.”

She called it a ploy to withdraw subsidy and said this would raise the “level of political confrontation”.

Banerjee said despite being in Delhi Wednesday morning to participate in the swearing-in ceremony of Pranab Mukherjee as the new president, she was kept completely in the dark.

“What is the use of having such a government (at the centre) which perpetrates such frauds on the people,” she said.

Calling the decision “unfortunate”, she said people were now worried everyday about “some or other prices” going up.

“If this goes on we have to hit the streets,” she said.

“I have given you no right to increase the burden on my people. It is an effort to give a bad name to (governments run by) alliance parties. They take a decision and put the blame on state governments,” she said.

Banerjee said she has not imposed any fresh taxes since forming the government last year.

“I tell them to withdraw this decision. I strongly condemn this. If they do not withdraw, we will hit the streets by taking the people with us,” she said.

“They (the centre) have not given my government any funds. They have not given me any (three year) moratorium on paying interests on central loans”.

Banerjee, however, ruled out giving any subsidy on petroleum and diesel prices saying the state government’s coffers were empty and it even had problems paying salaries to employees.