Opposition parties today staged a walkout from the Lok Sabha in protest against the recent hike in fuel and cooking gas prices. Members of Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, NCP and Left parties raised slogans against the move and walked out of the lower house demanding a rollback. They had tried to raise the issue as soon as Lok Sabha met for Question Hour, but were disallowed by Speaker Om Birla who asked them to raise it after the Question Hour.
There was widespread speculation of the price hike once the election results were declared for Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur as the Centre had steered clear of hiking prices during election season even when crude oil prices saw went up constantly in the international market.
Petrol and diesel prices were on Tuesday hiked by 80 paise a litre while domestic cooking gas prices were increased by Rs 50 per cylinder, ending an over four-and-half month election-related hiatus in rate revision.
Raising the issue after Question Hour, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the opposition parties had been claiming that the prices of diesel and petrol would increase after the assembly elections to five states were concluded.
“They have been falsely claiming that the price rise has nothing to do with elections. This is wrong. They didn’t want to upset voters before they voted. Don’t forget that the central tax on fuel is more than 50% but they never think of reducing it,” Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor told NDTV and added that this won’t directly impact the BJP as there a no elections around the corner.
The government last week said it was keeping a close watch on evolving geopolitical developments and would make ‘calibrated interventions’ to keep fuel prices under control “to safeguard the interest of the common man.”
On Tuesday, a litre of petrol rose to Rs 96.21 at the Rajdhani Service Station in Delhi, while diesel rates increased to Rs 87.47 per litre, reflecting an 80 paise increase from petrol costs of Rs 95.41 on Monday, while diesel rates stood at Rs 86.67 per litre.
That increase in retail fuel prices comes for the first time since November and has remained unchanged across metro cities for the most prolonged duration since the daily revision of prices began in June 2017.
India imports about 85 per cent of its oil needs, making it the world’s third-biggest oil importer and consumer. The country’s local petrol and diesel prices are linked to the international costs of the two fuels, which move proportionally to crude prices.
The benchmark Brent crude oil prices have risen sharply to nearly $120 per barrel on the escalation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and have put pressure on state fuel companies to increase the retail prices.
Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation – the three big state-run companies – dominate fuel retailing and tend to move their prices together.
News agency Reuters had reported late on Monday that retail fuel prices were to rise from Tuesday for the first time after a 4-month hiatus, citing two dealers, with one of them adding that there could be a regular increase in pump prices.