A whopping hike in petrol price on Wednesday did not just evoke sharp responses from Opposition parties — allies and friends of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government too were up in arms as the news came in, interestingly, a day after the latter celebrated its eighth anniversary in power, and the budget session concluded.
First off the block was, expectedly, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, followed by Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) supremo M. Karunanidhi, and then the Samajwadi Party, led by the man who was virtually the star of the UPA's celebrations on Tuesday, Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Even as Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee defended the move, saying “petrol is a deregulated commodity,” Ms. Bannerjee called a press conference in Kolkata. Ventilating her annoyance at “not being consulted on the price hike or on the prevailing economic situation in the country,” she said: “It is unjust and unilateral… it is an easy option to burden the people. We cannot accept the price-hike burden on the people.”
Ms. Banerjee also took serious exception to Parliament being bypassed. She pointed out that the session had “ended only yesterday.”
However, she noted that her party would not topple the UPA government on the issue, as the CPI(M) had tried to do to UPA-I: “We are not like the CPI[M]… We are for economic and political stability. Since we have a commitment to support the government, we are not exiting. But that does not mean we will not protest what is wrong.”
Karunanidhi’s call to MPs
Meanwhile, in Chennai, Mr. Karunanidhi said he had told party MPs to ask the Congress to reverse the price hike. T.R. Baalu, who represented the party at the UPA anniversary celebrations on Tuesday, described the decision as “unfortunate.” He said it “will affect the salaried class, the common man.''
In Lucknow, SP spokesperson Rajendra Chowdhury labelled the price hike as a “gift” to the common man from the government on completion of its third year in office. “We demand the immediate roll-back of the petrol price hike,” he said, stressing that the decision was “anti-people.” Coming as it did a day after Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav was seated next to Congress president Sonia Gandhi at dinner, it was not a happy sign.
While there was concern in Congress circles over the impact of the price hike, the party officially defended the government, with spokesperson Rashid Alvi saying his party had nothing to do with the hike and neither did the government it led.
“Global prices are up and the oil companies take their own decisions after petrol deregulation. India is part of the world and so it is affected too,” he said.
Terming the steep hike “unreasonable,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, “We condemn the petrol price hike and seek its rollback. We will not allow it to happen. A strong democratic agitation is on the cards.”