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Cong?s aam aadmi image hit

Cong?s aam aadmi image takes a hit

india Updated: Jun 08, 2006 02:51 IST
Saroj Nagi

The Congress' concern for the aam aadmi has taken a beating with the hike in the prices of petrol, diesel and even the common man's staple atta and dal.

Unlike the Opposition, the Congress cannot come out on streets to express its solidarity with the people affected by the cascading effect of the hikes.

This is despite the government sparing kerosene and LPG prices in deference to Sonia Gandhi who wanted the concerns of the common man to be kept in mind.

While putting the ball back in the Centre's court, asking it to "review" the hike, the AICC is also groping for ways to minimise the impact of the measure.

Among the first thing it did was to look at the NDA's track record of making over two-dozen changes in oil prices.

During the Vajpayee regime, the price of petrol went up from Rs 22.84 (in 1998) to Rs 35.71 (in 2004) and that of diesel from Rs 10.25 to Rs 21.74. Similarly, the common man's kerosene went up from Rs 2.52 (1998) to Rs 8.98 (2002) and of an LPG cylinder from Rs 136 to Rs 259 even though international petroleum prices increased by just 38%.

"Did they resort to chakka jaam at that time?'' asked AICC spokesman Rajiv Shukla. He pointed out that during the two years of the UPA, global crude prices had shot up 107% - a point that the government ads, to educate people on the hike, make.

The Congress has two other arguments: one, that the UPA government has kept the aam aadmi in mind with such pro-people measures like the job guarantee Act; and two, that the Indo-US N-deal, once operationalised, would make oil price hikes a thing of the past.

The third point - of high sales tax imposed by states-was also a factor in the high petrol and diesel prices, said party leaders wondering why the BJP or the Left, did not reduce the sales tax on oil in their states.

Shukla was also hard pressed, at the party's regular briefing, to reply to the expectation of a rollback that a section of his party - which provides feedback to the Government - wants and also the Centre's refusal to do so.

First Published: Jun 08, 2006 02:51 IST