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Fuel price hike coming after assembly polls?

business Updated: Apr 08, 2011 00:50 IST
Anupama Airy

Spiralling global crude oil prices - currently hovering at $121 a barrel - would have burnt a big hole in the pockets of consumers by now were it not for the assembly elections in five states.

The Indian basket of crude oil (a mix of crude oil that India imports) has also touched dangerous levels and is ruling above the $117 per barrel mark.

At these rate, the current hike required in petrol prices is close to Rs 6 per litre and in diesel close to Rs 17 per litre.

Despite deregulating petrol prices, state-owned oil companies - Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum - are in no position to act and have been informally asked to hold on price hikes till elections, especially in the two politically-sensitive states of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, get over.

Even the losses on retail prices of cooking fuels have gone up. While LPG is being sold at a loss of Rs 320 per cylinder, kerosene losses stand at Rs 19 per litre.

Oil companies said that any hike was likely only after the state elections get over. "The government is aware of the situation and its impact. But we need to wait and watch this trend in oil prices," said a senior oil company official. "Moreover, as any increase in domestic fuel prices has a direct political bearing, so we have to act cautiously."

Any increase in global crude oil prices has a direct bearing on the domestic prices of auto fuels (petrol and diesel) and cooking fuels (cooking gas and kerosene) as India imports close to 75% of its crude oil requirements.

But even after the elections, if the global oil price rally continues, will the government be in a position to pass on such a steep hike, especially in case of petrol, where the prices have been freed?

"The petroleum ministry alone does not take a call on fuel prices and this is decided by the Cabinet or at the level of the group of ministers," said a ministry official.