Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks blaming the Opposition States for high prices of petrol and diesel are misleading and one-sided, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Wednesday alleging that the Centre has adopted a “step-motherly” attitude towards the Opposition-ruled States.
Ms. Banerjee was reacting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks made earlier in the day that many States were not adhering to the Centre’s call for reducing the Value Added Tax (VAT) on petrol and diesel though his government had slashed excise duties on them in November last year.
The Chief Minister said it would have been better for the Prime Minister “not to discuss the subject” at a meeting called on the COVID–19 situation. “Obviously, it was a one-sided agenda. The Opposition Chief Ministers were not able to speak. We listened to you carefully but we do not agree with your views. The Opposition States are treated with a step–motherly attitude.”
Ms. Banerjee claimed that the Centre owes ₹97,000 crore to West Bengal and even if half the amount is disbursed to the State then the government would reduce VAT on petroleum. She said her government is giving a ₹1 reduction on VAT on petroleum products which costs ₹1,500 crore to the exchequer. She said the Modi government has raised ₹17,31,242 crore through excise collection on petroleum products.
“We wanted that prices of petroleum products be reduced and his [Prime Minister] gift is he is telling the States to do so. From where will we do that?” She said only 25% of the money collected by the Central taxes is given to the States.
She also accused the Centre of allocating more funds to the BJP–ruled States and said while the States which have given full support to Mr. Modi are being highlighted, the Opposition–ruled States face “discrimination and step–motherly attitude”.
She said the Centre is going on increasing cess on petroleum products but the benefits of the cess are not shared by the State. She said the State has a number of social sector schemes which would continue despite the “non–cooperation of the Centre”.
Ms. Banerjee accused the Centre of weakening the federal structure and running a “presidential form of governance instead of cooperative federalism”. She said she is extending her full moral support to all States whose names were taken by the Prime Minister to reduce VAT on petroleum products.