Telangana Assembly election 2023: For political parties, LPG subsidy is new firepower amid rising prices

November 16, 2023 12:08 am | Updated 02:51 pm IST - HYDERABAD

A worker loading LPG cylinders on to a trolley in Hyderabad.

A worker loading LPG cylinders on to a trolley in Hyderabad. | Photo Credit: File Photo

Frequent increase in cooking gas prices, often sharply, and the Centre’s emphasis on targetted liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) subsidy, has turned the spotlight on the domestic fuel in the battle of hustings with the ruling BRS in Telangana and opposition Congress promising to cap the LPG cylinder consumer price by adding a layer of State government subsidy.

Though not new as cooking gas prominently figured in the price rise debate for long and there also had been a few measures such as Deepam scheme for new connections and a subsidy of ₹50 per refill in erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh, to reduce the burden of households, the circumstances this time and financial implications likely are different. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is aspiring for a record consecutive third term in next year’s general elections, slashed cooking gas cylinder prices in August by ₹200 per refill for all domestic consumers in the run-up to polls in five States. The reduction brought down the 14.2-kg cylinder refill price from ₹1,155 to ₹955 for households in Hyderabad.

Within months of what the Prime Minister Narendra Modi then described as Raksha Bandhan gift to the sisters of the country, the government in October followed it up with a ₹100 increase in subsidy payout per refill to beneficiaries under its PMUY or Ujjwala scheme. Prior to this, such users were getting ₹200 subsidy.

BRS, in its manifesto, for the State elections due on November 30, has promised subsidised LPG cylinder at ₹400 for all eligible women. Congress manifesto says the party will provide LPG cylinder at ₹500, similar to what it did earlier this year in Rajasthan. BJP is yet to release its manifesto for Telangana.

While a few other State governments either extend State-specific subsidy or are examining the concept, a list that includes Madhya Pradesh, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu, the moot point are the implementation modalities of such programmes, financial implications and how additional resources required are to be garnered. At another level, the governments also need to factor in the backlash on account of a left-out feeling among LPG households not receiving any subsidy but deserving.

Observers say schemes reducing the strain on household budgets such as cooking gas subsidy are a big hit among women voters. The manifesto promises are likely to provide a glimmer of hope to 26.03 lakh beneficiaries of the State-sponsored Deepam scheme as despite being economically weak they are not getting the PMUY subsidy.

In Telangana, active domestic LPG customer base is a little over 1.20 crore of which connections issued under PMUY is more than 11.52 lakh. According to official data, the customer base across the country is 31.40 crore. In addition to the Deepam scheme beneficiaries, there are also 7.93 lakh connections issued under CSR funds of oil companies. Around 50 lakh domestic refills are delivered every month in Telangana by distributors of national oil companies.

Besides the households, LPG subsidy is bound to bring cheer to the distributors. “We should be happy because our customers will get refills at a lower cost. The [LPG] consumption level will [consequently] go up and definitely discourage [users from switching] to piped gas as no subsidy will be possible in that unless government brings in some scheme,” Telangana LPG Distributors Association president K.Jagan Mohan Reddy said.

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