New Delhi: Overheard: a senior minister, who shall go unnamed, grimacing over the government’s decision to slash fuel prices: “When Madam (Congress president Sonia Gandhi) calls, you have to carry out the instructions.”
Fuel price cuts are usually greeted by populist cheer, at least by members of the ruling coalition and its supporters. The petroleum minister is usually the only one left to strike a discordant note, citing more losses headed the way of public sector, oil retailing firms. But this time around, even the political euphoria has been conspicuous by its absence. Not even the Left parties, the traditional flag bearers of all rollbacks, are rejoicing.
The latest cuts are “too little, too late,” says Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Nilotpal Basu. Communist Party of India’s Gurudas Dasgupta was even less charitable. “The government has failed to gauge the political as well as the economic impact of all-round price hike. Economically, it failed to realise the fallout of speculation in food products and politically it failed to assess the popular outrage over inflation,” he said.
Other allies within the government have joined the chorus. “Price rise is the real problem for our government. We should try to contain inflation and control spiralling prices,” said D.P. Tripathi, Nationalist Congress Party spokesman.
With one phase of polling left in Manipur on 23 February and Uttarakhand going to polls just two days prior to that, the decision to trim fuel prices may not go down well with the Election Commission either. “This seems to be a violation of the model code of conduct,” said Ajay Kumar, secretary in charge of Punjab polls for the Election Commission.