The Congress-led government and its allies defended the hike in petrol prices on Sunday, even as the opposition parties said the move - taken just after assembly elections concluded in four states and a union territory - underlined the government's opportunism.
The hike was necessary to keep the government's financial burden in check, although it would hurt the common man who is already grappling with inflation, said the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a member of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
"The Centre took a decision to remove control over fuel prices after considerable thought and now we will be affected by highs in the global market," NCP spokesperson Madan Bafna. "It's okay for the opposition to make it a political issue but the decision was taken to avoid huge financial burden to the government."
In the steepest single hike so far, the price of petrol was raised by R5 per litre - or more than 8% - from Saturday midnight.
Maharasthra CM Prithviraj Chavan sought to distance the UPA from the price hike, saying it was carried out by oil firms.
Opposition parties held protests across the country demanding the hike roll-back.
In Maharashtra, Shiv Sena workers stopped the Mumbai-Pune intercity train at Lonavala.
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray described the hike as a 'petrol bomb' lobbed on common people. "The hike took place after elections in the five states were over. This is nothing but backstabbing the common man, who is already reeling under a crisis," he said.
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar also rapped the Centre for hiking prices just after assembly polls.
In Andhra Pradesh, the opposition TDP, CPI, CPI-M and the BJP staged protests in different parts of the state.
West Bengal's Left Front said it feared the prices of diesel, cooking gas and kerosene would also be hiked soon.
"Following decontrol, petrol prices are increasing almost monthly. But since January, the price hike was kept on hold in view of the assembly elections in five states. Now, that the elections are over the prices have increased again," the Left Front said in a statement.
With agency inputs