High fuel prices: Opposition-ruled state CMs hit back at Centre

“PM Narendra Modi has delivered a completely one-sided and misleading speech. The facts shared by him were wrong. We have been providing a subsidy of Re 1 on every litre of petrol and diesel for the last three years. We've spent Rs 1,500 crore on this,” Mamata said.

“We have dues of Rs 97,000 crore with the Centre. The day we get half of the amount, the next day we will give Rs 3,000 crore petrol and diesel subsidy," said Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested Opposition-ruled states to reduce VAT on petrol and diesel, the Chief Ministers of those states have hit back at the Centre.

Chief Ministers of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Rajasthan and West Bengal responded sharply on Thursday (April 28).

On Wednesday, PM Modi held a review meeting with CMs amid rising COVID-19 cases in the country. During live telecast of the meeting, he had raised the issue of VAT on fuel prices.

“I am not criticising anyone but request Maharashtra, West Bengal, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu to reduce VAT now and give benefits to people,” PM Modi was quoted as saying.

He added, “I am appealing to you for the welfare of your people, in national interest, please reduce VAT for the benefit of your people. What was to be done was not done, but please cooperate now.”

Responding to this, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee criticised the Modi government and asked it to not “bulldoze the democracy”. She said Modi had delivered a “misleading” speech.

“PM Narendra Modi has delivered a completely one-sided and misleading speech. The facts shared by him were wrong. We have been providing a subsidy of Re 1 on every litre of petrol and diesel for the last three years. We’ve spent Rs 1,500 crore on this,” Mamata said.

“We have dues of Rs 97,000 crore with the Centre. The day we get half of the amount, the next day we will give Rs 3,000 crore petrol and diesel subsidy. I have no problem with subsidies but how will I run my government? It’s not correct to say that we have not given subsidy. We have waived taxes of all those in the transport business and spent Rs 1,000 crore on it,” she added.

The TMC leader claimed that since coming to power in 2014, the Modi government collected Rs 17,31,242 crore in revenue on fuel.

“In Modi Ji’s time, 2014 September to September 2021, the total revenue collected by Modi government on petrol and diesel is, since it came to office, it is about (Rs) 17,31,242 crore. Why have you done this, how much did you give to Gujarat. We don’t have any objection to this. But you don’t give money to opposition states but only take from them. Opposition-ruled states face discrimination, step-motherly attitude, negligence, (they are) abused, accused, atrocities and what not. It is also one type of extortion to the democracy. Don’t bulldoze the democracy. You are running presidential form of government, not the cooperative federalism,” she said.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR), said PM should “feel ashamed” for advising states.

“The PM should feel ashamed of himself for advising to do so… Why can’t the Centre slash the taxes instead of asking the states? The Telangana government has last enhanced (rounded off) petrol and diesel prices in 2015 and since then there has been no hike. But the Centre has not only enhanced the taxes but also imposed cess… If you (PM) have guts, explain on the enhanced taxes,” KCR said.

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray too slammed the Modi government over “misinformation” on fuel prices.

“To say that the prices of petrol and diesel are inflated in Maharashtra due to the taxes levied by the state government is misinformation,” the Maharashtra CM’s office tweeted.

In the Tamil Nadu Assembly, state Chief Minister M K Stalin said people were aware of the fact behind the fuel prices’ issue and pointed out at his government effecting a Rs 3 a litre cut on petrol earlier.

Stalin said since 2014, whenever international crude rates dipped, the NDA government did not pass on the benefit to the customers but only pocketed the additional revenue earned from the differential.

Referring to a Tamil saying, he indicated that the PM was not revealing the facts. While the excise duty levied on petrol and diesel has to be shared with states, that has been reduced, thus affecting the states’ revenue, he said.

“While the cess and surcharges are not meant to be shared with the state governments, these have been exorbitantly hiked, thus burdening people and the union government is enjoying the revenue earned from this,” the CM added.

He also accused the Centre of “pretending” to have reduced the fuel-related taxes due to “elections in some states,” in an apparent reference to the polls held earlier this year in five states, including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Goa.

“A week after the state elections, the prices were hiked and the Union government imposed further burden on people,” he charged.

However, soon after winning the elections and forming the government last year, unmindful of the fiscal position, and according priority to people’s welfare, his government had effected the tax cut for petrol even before Centre did, Stalin pointed out.

“People know all this. Who shows real keenness in reducing petrol rates and who pretends and lays the blames on others–I leave it to the people to decide,” Stalin said.

Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot tweeted, “The Prime Minister took the name of Jaipur but was trying to give that message to the BJP ruled states because even today the prices of petrol and diesel in Bhopal are higher than Jaipur. Perhaps by mistake he called Bhopal Jaipur.”

Earlier on Thursday, Petroleum minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a series of tweets, “Petrol will be cheaper if opposition ruled states cut taxes on fuel instead of imported liquor.”

“Truth hurts, but facts speak for themselves. 18% VAT on petrol & 16% on diesel in Haryana among lowest. An aspiring leader from the state protests against these, but is silent on Rajasthan ruled by his own party which imposes 31.08% +₹1500 /KL cess- among the highest in country!

“BJP ruled States have a VAT on petrol & diesel in the range of ₹14.50 to ₹17.50 /ltr, while taxes levied by states ruled by other parties are in the range of ₹26 to ₹32 /ltr. The difference is clear. Their intent is only to protest & criticise, not extend relief to the people,” he said.

“Petrol will be cheaper if opposition ruled states cut taxes on fuel instead of imported liquor! Maharashtra govt imposes ₹32.15/ltr on petrol & Congress ruled Rajasthan ₹29.10 But BJP ruled Uttarakhand levies only ₹14.51 & Uttar Pradesh ₹16.50. Protests cannot challenge facts!” he tweeted.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too attached PM Modi. He tweeted, “High Fuel prices – blame states. Coal shortage – blame states. Oxygen shortage – blame states. 68% of all fuel taxes are taken by the centre. Yet, the PM abdicates responsibility. Modi’s Federalism is not cooperative. It’s coercive.”

(With inputs from Agencies)

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