‘Hike in fuel prices suo motu, one-sided, wrong’

Criticising the Centre for the rise in prices of petrol and diesel in seven States, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee said here on Wednesday that such decisions were pushing her party towards a political confrontation with it.

“We strongly protest the decision and if it is not withdrawn immediately, we will take to the streets and go towards a confrontation [with the Centre]… Such decisions are bringing a bad name to the allies [in the UPA],” she said.

“Is this a government only about harassing the people? This is a suo motu, one-sided decision of the Centre taken sitting in a room ... I am really shocked; it is very unfortunate and condemnable,” Ms. Banerjee said, shortly after her return from New Delhi, where she had gone to attend the swearing-in of the new President.

“One-sided move”

Demanding a withdrawal of the decision to hike the prices taken “by the [Petroleum] Ministry and the oil companies, who are twin brothers in the name of recalibration of rates,” she warned the Centre against “forcing us into a political confrontation and taking to the streets.”

“It is a one-sided decision which is wrong; none has given them [the Centre] the right to burden the common man … Every morning one anticipates a fresh hike in the prices,” said Ms. Banerjee, adding that the State governments is thought to be consulted on such matters. “We [the State governments] are being made to appear the guilty party.”

‘People being cheated’

“Why was such a decision taken without consulting the State governments and the UPA allies? This amounts to a cheating of the people… The Centre should declare which subsidy it is granting and which it is withdrawing. We do not like blackmailing and cheating of the people each day,” she said.

Ms. Banerjee said the decision to decontrol petrol prices should be reviewed. “It has been nine years [since the decision was taken] and two governments have come and gone. Why a recalibration of rates nine years after the decision was taken in 2003? You [the Centre] will have to review the situation if a decision of 2003 is to be implemented now,” she said.

Lack of aid

Taking a snipe at the Centre’s failure to bail out her cash-strapped government, Ms. Banerjee said: “West Bengal is suffering from lack of funds because of debts left behind by previous Left Front governments and allowed by their friends, the Congress at the Centre. There has been neither financial assistance from the Centre, nor a three-year moratorium on the payment of interests on loans. All it [the Centre] wants is to withdraw subsidies when there is need for them to protect the interests of the poor.”

Ms. Banerjee was also critical of the Centre for the decision to decontrol the price of fertilisers: “It was a sudden decision taken in 2010 and we were not in the know. This is wrong.

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