The BJP is concerned over steep rise in prices of petrol and diesel. Many party leaders who were prompt in criticising the fuel price hike during the UPA government’s tenure are worried about anger of middle and lower middle class voters that form the BJP’s support base if the situation continues.
The Bharat Bandh called by the opposition to protest against the fuel price hike and falling rupee pushed the BJP on the backfoot. Despite rise in prices, BJP avoided a discussion on the issue during its two-day national executive. It also abruptly ended a news conference when a question on the issue was posed. The issue is said to be one of the factors that led the party to not pass an economic resolution — which has been part of virtually every past conclave — this time.
The social media has been rife with remarks that PM Modi and other BJP leaders made during their days in the opposition on the petrol and diesel price hikes under UPA dispensation.
Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan met BJP chief Amit Shah at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Monday and is understood to have discussed this issue. For the record, Pradhan said he discussed the political situation in Odisha, his home state. However, BJP general secretary in-charge of Odisha Arun Singh did not participate in the meeting though he was present at the headquarters. Odisha was discussed at length at the BJP national executive meeting too.
The party raised the issue of inconvenience caused to the people by Bharat Bandh. Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said a two-year old girl in Jehanabad died as the ambulance taking her to hospital was ‘delayed by protest’. He said ambulances were never stopped during protests and hospitals and medical shops were not vandalised or forced to close down.
“This is unnerving the Congress. An atmosphere of fear is being created. When there is no support to the protests, they are resorting to violence. We stand with the people on this issue but the solution to the increase in petrol and diesel prices is not in our hands,” Prasad said. He blamed Opec for the surge in international prices of crude.
“There is political instability in Venezuela. An attempt was made on the life of the Venezuelan president. There are US sanctions on Iran. The oil production in US has decreased… We have to depend on imports for oil,” Prasad said. When asked whether the government was planning to bring petroleum products under GST, Prasad said the decision cannot be taken unil a t e r a l ly by the Centre. Incidentally, BJP is in power in more than two-third states.