The BJP is silent on the fuel price hikes because the Centre’s hands are tied.
Behind the bluster of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new slogan of invincibility and resoluteness, ‘Ajay Bharat, Atal Bhajpa’—proclaimed at the BJP’s national executive meeting last weekend—lay the ruling party’s calculated decision to keep silent on the fuel price hike. While the opposition took to the streets, organising a Bharat Bandh on the issue, the BJP decided to keep things low key. There was no mention of spiralling fuel prices and the weakening rupee—issues that had brought most opposition leaders onto the same platform once again. Though the government tried to play down the bandh by a “disruptive opposition”, BJP sources say the party is definitely aware of the possible political fallout of rising fuel prices.
Outlook spoke to several BJP leaders to find out the strategy behind keeping a low profile when an all-out political war has broken out over the emotive issue. “The Centre can do little at this juncture. It is in no position to reduce excise duty on petrol and diesel in the immediate future. Taxes on petrol and diesel contribute a huge chunk to the government’s revenue. In 2017–18, the Centre had mopped up Rs 2.29 lakh crore from the excise duty on petroleum products. Funds are needed to implement crucial social schemes that the PM has announced, and there is no scope for any cut as of now. So it has been decided to let the states handle the issue as they think fit,” discloses a senior BJP leader.
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September 24, 2018