Milind Deora disagrees with Rahul Gandhi’s stand on oil prices
Former party president Gandhi and other leaders have asked the government to pass on the gains of the record plunge in international crude oil prices to consumers by reducing petrol and diesel prices, but Deora questioned the move, asking who would benefit when no vehicles are on the roads.Updated: Apr 22, 2020 20:16 IST
Former Mumbai Congress unit chief Milind Deora has disagreed with senior leader Rahul Gandhi over a demand for passing on benefits of the unprecedented fall in international crude oil prices to consumers.
Former party president Gandhi and other leaders have asked the government to pass on the gains of the record plunge in international crude oil prices to consumers by reducing petrol and diesel prices, but Deora questioned the move, asking who would benefit when no vehicles are on the roads.
“Prices of crude oil have fallen to unexpected levels across the world, yet why is petrol in our country sold at Rs 69, diesel at Rs 62? It is good that prices have fallen in this disaster. When will this government listen?” Gandhi tweeted in Hindi on Tuesday.
But Deora disagreed. “India imports Brent crude – not WTI – currently priced at $21 per barrel. We will import less oil due to weakened demand. Falling rupees may also offset gains from low oil prices. Lastly, when car truck buses train and planes are sitting idle, consumers can’t gain from petrol and diesel price cuts,” he tweeted.
Gandhi posed the question on oil prices to the government on a day the Brent crude futures price, the international benchmark, for delivery in June fell to as low as $18.10, its lowest since November 2001.
Fuel prices at the pump haven’t budged since mid-March in India, though crude oil has been on the decline because of concerns over the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on world economies and an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Gandhi’s views were echoed by Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, who said oil prices had fallen to less than one dollar a barrel, and yet the government was silent and not reducing prices of petrol and diesel.
“WTI Crude Oil price plunges below USD 0 per barrel! We, the People, are still paying Rs 69.59 for Petrol Rs 62.29 for Diesel (Delhi). Why is Modi Government mum? Will ‘Self Styled Nationalists’ at least now become ‘Rationalists’ and demand relief?” Surjewala tweeted.
Another party spokesperson, Pawan Khera, asked what was holding the government back from reducing prices when crude oil had fallen to unprecedented lows as manufacturers had no storage capacity. “Why is government not transferring this reduction in oil prices to end-users like farmers and middle class? This relief will go a long way to help them,” he said.
Surjewala was also quick to contradict Deora. “@milinddeora bhai. US is now India’s 6th largest Oil Supplier. In the 6 months of 2019-20, we imported 54 lakh tonnes of crude oil from U.S. Also, North India has peak harvesting season now with Diesel guzzling Harvesters Tractors and Trucks…again moving the supply chain,” he tweeted.
Deora’s tweet prompted Amit Malviya, in-charge of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national information and technology cell, to take a dig at the former Congress president. “Rahul Gandhi’s smarter colleague, Milind, answers the question…,” he tweeted.
The Congress has maintained that the benefits should be passed on to transporters and farmers amid the Covid-19 crisis, given that the government raised oil taxes 12 times in the past six years and raised Rs 20 lakh crore.
Deora, a former Union minister, resigned from the post of the Mumbai Congress chief in June last year, in a move seen as an expression of solidarity with Gandhi who stepped down as the Congress president on May 25 after the party’s drubbing in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
In February 2020, he was engaged in a Twitter war with party colleague, Ajay Maken, after the former praised Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for the assembly election win in the city-state.
A Mumbai Congress leader said Deora removed the mention of the Congress party from his Twitter bio soon after his resignation as the Mumbai unit chief.