In an effort to take the punch out of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's rally against the increase in petrol prices, the Congress said on Saturday that the Trinamool Congress government could lessen the burden on the people if it reduced the State levies on the fuel.

 Urging the political parties to “see reason and act in a more responsible way,” Pradesh Congress Committee president Pradip Bhattacharya said in a statement that the decision to increase petrol prices was meant to tide over the financial crisis [of the oil marketing companies], and to ensure continuation of the development programmes for the poor. His remarks came on a day when Ms. Banerjee hit the streets to protest the increase.

The Trinamool Congress government was seeking funds from the Centre for development; at the same time, the party was indulging in populist moves, like seeking the continuance of subsidy on petrol, he said. “This shows the dichotomy in policy matters in most of the political parties.”

Referring to the several development programmes run by the Centre for West Bengal, Mr. Bhattacharya said that during 2011-12, the Centre sanctioned Rs. 8,700 crore in backward region development grant to the State.

He also urged the Centre not to increase the prices of diesel, kerosene and cooking gas that could have a cascading effect on the prices of essential commodities. 

Earlier this week, Mr. Bhattacharya criticised Ms. Banerjee for her comments that the UPA government's economic mismanagement had led to the price increase. It was Ms. Banerjee who was mismanaging the State's economy, he said.