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Government to unleash propaganda blitzkrieg to counter the Opposition on fuel price hike  

Media blitz to counter Oppn onslaught against fuel hike

NEW DELHI: With the Monsoon Session of Parliament round the corner, the Manmohan Singh government is gearing up to unleash a propaganda blitzkrieg to counter the Opposition onslaught against fuel price hike. The government has okayed the blueprint of the propaganda offensive, replete with facts and figures which suggest that it is the states which are walking away with a lion’s share of the taxes collected from the sale of petrol and allied products. The states, which included those ruled by BJP and the Left, themselves were levying taxes and cess on fuel. The third component was a comparative study of the prices raised on fuel during the previous NDA regime and the UPA government.

Armed with these statistics, the government is preparing to bring out a series of advertisements before the Monsoon Session of Parliament gets underway on July 26. Alternatively, petroleum minister Murli Deora could hold a press conference and reel out these figures. The government, it’d seem, has clearly been rattled by the success of the Opposition-sponsored bandh against fuel price hike on July 5. With the non-UPA parties, with the exception of the RJD-LJP combine, BSP and RLD, promising a repeat performance during the month-long session, government managers are clearly not willing to take any chances. “The idea is to build up a campaign to turn the tables on the Opposition before the commencement of the Monsoon Session,’’ government sources pointed out.

In the year 2009-10, the government collected Rs 1,80,000 crores by way of taxes from the sale of petrol, diesel, LPG and kerosene oil. The states cornered Rs 72,000 crore from this pool, leaving the remaining Rs 1,08,000 crores with the Centre. From its share, the Centre allotted another Rs 24,000 crore to the states. Thus, while the share of the Centre from these taxes was only Rs 84,000 crores, that of the states was Rs 96,000 crore.

While the BJP-led NDA was in power in eight states, the Left Front was in saddle in another three. Uttar Pradesh was being ruled by the BSP, while Orissa has been under the BJD’s control for over a decade now. The Centre had refrained from raising the price of kerosene oil, used mainly by the rural populace and the poor, between 2004-2010, but the states had not hesitated from taking the plunge during the corresponding period. The government has also collected figures of the taxes and cess imposed by various state governments on petro-products, making it clear that both BJP and the Left parties were as much responsible. West Bengal, which has been under Left control for 33 years, for instance, had slapped 25% tax, and a cess of Re 1 per litre, on petrol; 17% tax on diesel and 4% tax on kerosene.

The figures were even more harsh in the case of Kerala, where the tax-rate was 29% on petrol, 24% on diesel and 1% on kerosene.
BJP-ruled Gujarat, according to these government sources, too had not flinched from levying taxes on petrol and related products. It had imposed 23% tax, and 2% cess, on petrol, and 21% tax, and 3% cess, on the sale of diesel. The government, it is learnt, is also preparing a point-by-point rebuttal of the points raised by the Left parties in a booklet on fuel prices.….Devesh Kumar/ The Economic Times

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