The Budget Session in Lok Sabha on Thursday opened to voices of dissent from within the UPA government over the hike in petrol and diesel prices.
The DMK and Trinamool Congress — partners in the UPA government — joined the Opposition in criticising the Centre’s move to increase fuel prices on the eve of the Budget Session without any discussion in Cabinet. Even once trusted ally Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal used the issue to get back at the Congress.
The DMK’s T.R. Baalu made a stinging attack. “I strongly condemn the decision… not at all good. It’s not a unitary government but a coalition one. It should have been discussed with party leaders, if not in cabinet,” he said.
Baalu, who could not make it to the Union Cabinet this time after questions were raised over his performance during his stint in UPA 1, said the decision was “ill-timed” and “nowhere justifiable”.
DMK ministers M.K. Azhagiri and Dayanidhi Maran were not seen in the House when Baalu was slamming the government.
Baalu went on to praise “friends” in the Opposition for raising the genuine concerns of the people and at the same time had a word of caution for the Congress: “It should not recur. I am saying this as a close friend of the Congress.”
Placing his “thoughts and ideas” in the House, the Trinamool’s Sudip Bandopadhyay said his party was not happy with the decision.
“We understand that international crude prices have gone up. But the common people are facing more difficulties with the hike," he said.
Demanding immediate roll-back of the fuel price hike, Bandopadhyay said the government should respond to the situation by giving the assurance that prices would be reduced once international crude oil becomes cheaper.
Lalu too had some hard-hitting words for the Congress-led government: “On the one side, the government talks of welfare programmes for the poor and on the other, it sucks the blood of the aam aadmi.”
The RJD boss asked the Congress not to make the rollback a “prestige” issue. “Increase prices only when the economic situation improves in the country… Such acts defame the party,” he said.
Members of the BJP, Left, Samajwadi Party, JD-U, BJD, Shiv Sena, BSP, TDP, Akali Dal and AIADMK said the hike would hit farmers and result in substantial increase in prices of all essential commodities.
The government rejected their demand for immediate rollback. “In view of continuous rise in global crude prices, a marginal increase had become unavoidable,” Petroleum Minister Murli Deora said.