In a first sign of dissent within the UPA government over the recent Rs. 7 hike in petrol prices, defence minister AK Antony on Tuesday said it was “not a correct step”.
Antony's remarks came soon after he landed at Neyyattinkara in Kerala to campaign for Congress candidate R Selvaraj for the June 2 assembly by-elections.
“The hike in petrol price was not a correct step. The oil companies should have shown some propriety,” he said amid nationwide protests over the move.
The UPA government has even come under severe attack from its own allies with the Trinamool Congress, the DMK and the NCP vehemently demanding a rollback. Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee even led a street protest in Kolkata against the steepest-ever petrol price hike.
The voices of dissent within the Congress have also grown as the government decided to wait and watch the situation before bringing down the prices. The party has been pushing the government to announce at least a partial rollback.
"Common man is awaiting government's decision to rollback petrol prices. There's great anger against the government on its decision to increase prices," senior Congress leader Anil Shastri said.
Before him, party MP Praveen Aron had expressed his disagreement with the decision and urged Congress president Sonia Gandhi to direct the government to have a rethink on deregulation of prices of petroleum products.
A large number of MPs, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have expressed their anguish over the move that came at a time when the Congress and the UPA government were at the receiving end from all sides.
With bypoll in mind, the Congress-led UDF government in Kerala was the first in the country to reduce local taxes on fuel that brought down the retail prices by Rs. 1.63 a litre.