K.V. Prasad

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Friday night decided that in the States where the party was heading the Government sales tax would not be levied on the increased price of petrol and diesel.

Party sources here said the move was prompted by the commitment of the Congress to address the concerns of the aam aadmi (common man).

Highly placed sources said the Congress had asked the State Governments not to levy the tax and cited the example of Maharashtra, where the price of petrol would be less by Re. 1 a litre on account of this decision.

The Congress is heading the government in over a dozen States, including in the Northeast. In the North, the party is in power in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, and is leading the coalition in Jammu and Kashmir. In the South, the Congress rules Andhra Pradesh and the Union Territory of Pondicherry.

The high command directive comes two days after the party appealed to the Centre to take into consideration the problems of the common people. Though it did not specify the quantum of the cut the party expected in terms of the actual price being charged, senior party leaders maintained that petrol could cost Re. 1 less.

With the Government asserting that there would be no rollback, the Congress has been under pressure to prove that its voice is heard by the Manmohan Singh Government.

The move is aimed at blunting criticism that the Government does not heed the "suggestion" of the party and at the same time taking the sting out of opposition.

It is not coincidental that Petroleum Minister Murli Deora on Thursday suggested that the States cushion the impact of the oil price hike by not levying an additional burden in terms of sales tax.

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