3 March : Both the houses of parliament on Wednesday witnessed uproarious scenes leading to several adjournments over fuel price hike while government clarified that due to enhanced allocation for social sector welfare schemes in the Union Budget, it was necessary to effect the hike.
Main opposition Party BJP said the government should consider roll back of the hike. The Left parties alleged that Prime Minister’s statement on this issue had created confusion on the issue.
Congress indicated that there will be no roll back in fuel prices and accused the opposition of resorting to “political opportunism” on the issue.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in separate meetings with Congress MPs, leaders of UPA allies like Trinamool Congress, DMK, NCP and IUML explained to them the rationale behind the government’s move.
Two of these allies DMK and TMC have earlier resented the government’s decision to hike fuel prices but had later piped down their opposition while NCP openly supported the government over the issue.
Mukherjee is learnt to have told the allies that there was nothing in this decision as the government only withdrew partially the reduction given in excise duty earlier.
“It was a short meeting. Government explained to them (allies) the rationale behind the decision,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said.
Earlier, moving the motion, Rao Inderjit Singh (Cong) said the credit for country’s economic growth at 6.5 per cent despite drought and depression in the last couple of years should rightfully go to the Prime Minister and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
On price hike of petro products, he said the NDA governments had increased the rates 33 times from 1998 to 2004.
“The opposition should introspect before resorting to such political opportunism. They raised prices of petrol 21 times, that of diesel 24 times and that of LPG five times when the NDA was in power,” party spokesman Manish Tewari said.
He said the opposition walkout during Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s Budget speech was not only a contempt of Parliament but also a mockery of democracy as presentation of budget was the most important in a parliamentary calendar.
Participating in the debate on Motion of Thanks to President’s address to joint sitting of Parliament, NDA’s Working Chairman L K Advani expressed concern over the price rise and attacked the UPA for its “inability” to deal with increasing inflation.
“The biggest worry is price rise affecting the aam aadmi”, he said, asking the government to take remedial measures.
“Besides mismanagement, scam in import-export was also responsible for rising prices as well as corruption,” he said.
The BJP leader was later joined by SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav who took the government to task for its “failure” to deal with issues like growing menace of naxalism and rising prices.
Referring to growing menace of naxalism, Yadav said the government should talk to them. “When the government can talk to foreigners, why cannot it talk to them,” he asked.
Commenting on the decision of the government to raise urea prices, he questioned, “How could the government expect the farmers to raise productivity by increasing fertiliser prices.”
As regard the price rise, he said, “they (prices) go up whenever the government talks about checking them.”
The SP leader said his party would oppose tooth and nail the Women’s Reservation Bill.
“At the most you can do is to throw us out (of the House) and cancel our membership,” Yadav said. He was supported by RJD leader Lalu Prasad who said “there will be a war”.
In the Rajya Sabha, the opposition members took exception to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assertion while returning from Saudi Arabia on Monday that there will be no rollback, contending that it was a breach of privilege as he had made the statement outside Parliament though the House was in session.
“Instead of answering in the House, the Prime Minister chose mid-air to reject the demand (about rollback) made by the nation,” Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said.
He was supported by Left members, with CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat saying the Prime Minister’s statement had created a “lot of confusion”.