In what can be seen as a pressure tactic, the Nationalist Congress Party, a key ally of the UPA government, said it was not consulted before the decision on diesel hike and LPG subsidy cap was taken, and sought a rethink on them. However, the party also said that it did not want to destabilise the government at the Centre.
The statement, made at a NCP press conference in Mumbai, is significant as it comes a day before the UPA’s co-ordination committee meeting on Friday.
“What others are saying now, Pawar had pointed out earlier — that there is no coordination in the UPA. We were not consulted before taking both these decisions. We want the Centre to do a rethink on them,” said NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik.
The NCP has demanded that economic criteria be used to offer LPG gas cylinder subsidy, and the rich be excluded from it. The party wants the number of subsidised cylinders to be increased from six to 12 for a nuclear family, and 18 for a joint one. Similarly, it said that diesel cars in the luxury segment should be taxed heavily to offset the diesel subsidy instead of burdening the poor and middle classes.
“Why should the rich get LPG subsidy? The Centre should set some economic ceiling so that the maximum benefit goes to the poor and middle classes. Similarly, why not tax the luxury car segment by hiking excise on them, instead of a uniform hike on diesel?” Malik asked. He said the suggestions could be discussed in the Friday meeting.
He also put a spanner in the Congress party’s decision that states ruled by it would foot the burden of LPG subsidy to hike the number of such cylinders from six to nine. “Maharashtra is not a Congress-ruled state. There is a coalition government here. The issue would have to be discussed between the partners first,” he said.
Congress state party chief Manikrao Thakre played down NCP’s stance. “All the statements made so far by Sharad Pawar have been supportive of the Congress. The NCP is our key ally and they have backed the FDI decision. If there are differences over diesel hike, they can be discussed and sorted out in the coordination meet.”