Social media is having a field day trolling BJP leaders and Bollywood celebrities, who in the period before 2014 had gone on an overdrive to criticize and mock the UPA Government.
In the run up to the 2014 election, BJP released several campaign videos protesting against high petroleum prices. This was one of them:
Union ministers Prakash Javadekar and Smriti Irani had then accused the UPA Government of being insensitive to the plight of the common man. There was no reason why petrol should not sell at Rs 34 a litre in Delhi and at Rs 36 in Mumbai, had declared Javadekar, asking rhetorically why the price was twice as high. Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat chief minister, had said that the price-hike was an example of the Government’s administrative failure. He had then hoped that the prime minister would ‘understand’ the gravity of the situation.
Union Minister Ravishankar Prasad had then said that the petroleum price-rise showed that the Government had no concern for the AamAadmi. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had reminded the UPA Government then that taxes on petroleum could be reduced to provide some relief to the people. Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had then wondered why the Government was increasing the burden on the common man. Union Minister Smriti Irani had then hit the streets to ask why the prime minister had failed to control prices.
Bollywood celebrities rooting for the BJP also had mocked the central government. Amitabh Bachchan had tweeted a joke that a car owner wanted the attendant at a petroleum outlet to pour some petrol on his car so that he could burn it. “Couldn’t even get to my house at night,” had tweeted actor Akshay Kumar, “for all of Mumbai was queuing up for petrol before the prices rocketed again.”
Actor Anupam Kher had claimed that his driver could no longer afford to drive a motorcycle while another nationalist ‘Bhakt’ Vivek Agnihotri had wished people an increase in happiness like petrol prices and a decline in their sorrow like the value of the Indian Rupee.
While all these voices are silent today, the last word has been said by an anti-national, who tweeted that BJP Government needed to be complimented for keeping its promise of increasing value of the GDP (Gas, Diesel and Petrol).
For the 20th consecutive day on June 26, petrol and diesel prices registered an increase. Petrol prices had taken a break for a day however on June 24. For the first time since 2002, when petroleum prices were deregulated, diesel prices in Delhi became higher than petrol, selling at Rs 80.19 per litre against Rs 80.13 for a litre of petrol on Thursday.
The international price of crude oil during the last one year has hovered between a low of US $20 a barrel to a high this month of US$42 a barrel---much lower than US$107 a barrel prevailing in 2014. But the benefit of low oil prices was not passed on to Indian consumers during the last six years.
Nearly two-thirds of the retail prices of petrol and diesel go in taxes to the Centre and the states. Roughly, over 60 per cent of the taxes go to the Centre and the rest go to the states by way of VAT. In fact, the tax component on petrol is as much as 64 percent.
With dealers’ commission by and large having remained static all these years, the biggest beneficiary of the price-hike has been the central government. With GST not yielding the anticipated revenue and the lockdown having put a stop to revenue generating activity, the fund-starved central government may have found hiking petroleum prices an easier option to garner some revenue.
But Kerala’s finance minister Thomas Isaac, however, struck a hornet’s nest by not only condemning what he described as a “loot under the cover of pandemic” but going on to suggest a motive behind the unchecked price-rise.
“What is the motive behind oil companies being allowed to raise the price for 17th consecutive day totalling increase of Rs 9.5 for diesel and Rs 8.5 for petrol? They are preparing for privatisation of oil companies. Sheep have to be fattened before slaughter,” he tweeted. BJP’s stock response has been to ask opposition-ruled states to reduce VAT to give relief to the people. But while the daily price increases have followed the upward movement in the international crude prices in June, it is also a fact that there has been a steep hike in central duty since 2014. The states have benefitted from the resultant hike in prices but few states have uniltaterally increased rates of VAT on petroleum.