The Opposition on Wednesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of playing politics during his meeting with chief ministers on the Covid situation by raising the issue of fuel prices and “passing the buck” on to states to reduce VAT on petrol and diesel. Hitting out at the Opposition, the BJP said its stance reeks of hypocrisy and alleged that for every litre of petrol, opposition-ruled states were earning twice as much as the BJP-ruled states.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the Centre owed Rs 26,500 crore to the state, after Prime Minister Modi said some states did not reduce VAT on petrol and diesel despite the excise duty cut by the Union government in November last year. Thackeray also accused the Centre of a step-motherly treatment to Maharashtra and that the state government was not responsible for the rise in prices of petrol and diesel.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala attacked Modi, demanding that he give an account of the Rs 27 lakh crore “collected” by the BJP government from tax on petrol and diesel. “Modi ji, No criticism, No distractions, No Jumlas! Please give an account of ?27,00,00,00,00,00,00 (?27 Lakh Crore) collected by BJP Govt from Tax on Petrol & Diesel,” Surjewala said.
He said that on May 26, 2014, when PM Modi assumed charge, crude oil was USD 108 per barrel, but petrol and diesel were priced at Rs 71.41 and Rs 55.49 per litre, while today, crude oil is USD 100.20 per barrel, but the petrol and diesel prices have been increased to Rs 105.41/litre and Rs 96.67/litre respectively in Delhi. “We will urge all states to decrease VAT on Petrol/Diesel to pre-May 2014 level. Please admit BJP Govt earned Rs 27 Lakh Crore from Petrol/Diesel while all states collectively received about 16.5 Lakh Crore. Central Govt revenue from Petrol/Diesel has doubled in 8 years,” he said in a series of tweets.
Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi also slammed the prime minister, alleging that he made the “COVID meeting about politics”. “The central government has earned 26 lakh Crore out of central excise on fuel, increased 18 times even when oil prices hit rock bottom. The GST share to states still owed, compensation component to state done away with and now pointing fingers,” she tweeted.
Attacking the Opposition, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said the chief ministers of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Jharkhand “reek of hypocrisy” as their respective parties nonchalantly go on demanding a decrease in the fuel prices but when the ball is in their court, they charge high state tax on fuel to amplify the problems of common people. He also shared a graphic on Twitter comparing the local taxes levied by BJP-ruled states to the Opposition-ruled states, with the caption: “For every litre of petrol, opposition-ruled states were earning twice of BJP-ruled states.”
Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Puri tweeted, “Invoking the spirit of cooperative federalism, PM Modi Ji hits the nail on its head. Instead of protesting, the opposition states which have not decreased taxes on petrol & diesel, even after centre reduced excise on such products, should do it now & offer relief to citizens.”
Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said after collecting Rs 26 lakh crore via taxes, after raising excise duty by 531 per cent on petrol and 206 per cent on diesel, despite having 68 per cent in fuel taxes and not sharing single rupee of profit, “PM is asking states to reduce VAT and pass benefits to Janta”.
“Classic BJP theory ‘Profit is Mine & Loss is Yours’,” he tweeted. “Does CM Modi, who solely and entirely blamed UPA Central Govt for fuel hike, agree with PM Modi who now is conveniently & mischievously passing buck to states for reducing fuel prices? Nation wants CM Modi to wake up PM Modi!!” Shergill said.
Another Congress spokesperson Shama Mohamed said the Modi government is buying discounted Russian oil and yet not passing the benefits to people. “The Centre has enough money to reduce excise but wants to pass the buck onto States!” she said.
Flagging higher fuel prices in many opposition-ruled states, Prime Minister Modi urged them to reduce VAT in “national interest” to benefit the common man and work in the spirit of cooperative federalism in this time of global crisis. Modi raised the issue of many states not adhering to the Centre’s call for reducing the Value Added Tax (VAT) on petrol and diesel after his government slashed excise duties on them in November last, and called it “injustice” to people living there and also harmful for neighbouring states.