They are not saying it openly. But MPs from the Congress-NCP combine want fuel prices to be rolled back.
They are hoping pressure from the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress will succeed in forcing Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to reverse the hike, at least partially.
The Trinamool held a rally in Kolkata on Saturday.
“We hope the central government will roll back the price hike. We will organise more demonstrations if prices are not reduced,” said Sudip Bandopadhaya, the leader of the Trinamool parliamentary party.
The party’s decision is driven purely by political compulsions in West Bengal. It wants to steal the thunder from the CPI(M), which has planned programmes of agitation.
In Mumbai, Congress and NCP MPs and legislators said the hike will cause food prices, which had started to ease, to rise again. And this will affect the popularity of the ruling combine. Vegetable prices, for instance, increased on Saturday and experts said other commodities will follow suit.
Politicians requested anonymity because speaking against their own leaders will amount to breaching party discipline.
“We cannot agitate openly against the Budget presented by our own leader. So we expect (Railway Minister) Mamata Banerjee to intensify her
party’s agitation and force the Finance Minister to withdraw the excise hike on crude oil,” said a Congress MP from Mumbai.
As a minister in the NDA government, Banerjee had forced the government to withdraw a hike in urea prices. “Let’s see if Pranab Mukherjee buckles under pressure,” said another city Congress MP.
The NCP also has its political concerns. Party boss and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is already facing strong criticism over rising prices. “Mr. Pawar had said prices would go down in the next three to four months. But now, we don’t see that happening,” said a senior NCP legislator.
Kerala unions strike
Thiruvananthapuram: Protesting hike in petroleum price, transport workers unions in Kerala on Saturday declared a one-day strike on March 2 while bus owners threatened to go on an indefinite strike from March 11.
The minimum charge should be raised to Rs 5 from Rs 3.50 and per km rate fixed at 60 paise, the cooridnation committee of bus owners said.