Bengaluru, Jul 12, 2018 : Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has come under mounting pressure from the ruling coalition partner Congress to roll back the hike in petrol and diesel prices announced in the state budget last week.
A day ahead of Kumaraswamy’s reply to the debate on the budget in the Assembly, senior Congress leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah said he had written to Kumaraswamy asking him to withdraw the hikes as it would affect the common man. Siddaramaiah pointed out that the Congress was protesting against the BJP government at the Centre over the fuel price hike and had made it a major issue.
"The Congress party has been protesting at the national level against the rise in the prices of fuel. We fought the BJP during the state polls over the issue of the rice in fuel prices. Our national leaders have also been campaigning against the central government over this issue. In this situation you have announced a hike in fuel prices which will result in a rise in the cost of living of the common man. You must reconsider this decision." Siddaramaiah, who is the Congress-JD(S) coordination committee chief said in the letter released to the media.
In his letter, Siddaramaiah also sought reconsideration of the decision to reduce the supply or rice. Expressing "surprise" over this decision, Siddaramaiah said the subsidy amount that his government had earmarked was Rs 2,450 crore and by reducing rice supply by two kg, Rs 600-700 crore can be saved. But reduction in the quantity may increase the burden on the poor, he said, adding that he came to know from party leaders and activists across Karnataka that people have opposed this move.
Some Congress MLAs believe they have lost moral authority to slam the Modi government on fuel price hike because Karnataka too has raised them, The Economic Times reported.
In the coalition government’s maiden budget last week, Kumaraswamy, who holds the finance portfolio,had proposed hike in the price on petrol and diesel by Rs 1.14 and Rs 1.12 per litre respectively as part of resource mobilisation efforts following the farm loan waiver, which is expected to cost the exchequer Rs 34,000 crore.
In his budget speech, Kumaraswamy had defended the fuel price hike, saying the government needed to augment resources for the welfare needs and that it was a modest increase. He has responded to the criticism over the hike stating that fuel prices had been increased nine times by the BJP government at the Centre over the past four years.
He had also announced a reduction in the rice quota issued to BPL families by two kg and decided to supply only five kg per month to an individual under the "Anna Bhagya", a flagship scheme of the previous Siddaramaiah government.
Karnataka Food and Civil Supplies Minister B Z Zameer Ahmed Khan too has written to Kumaraswamy, asking him to restore supply of 7 kg of rice under the Anna Bhagya scheme. According to a report in The Indian Express, the Anna Bhagya scheme of the Congress provided free rice to people living below the poverty line by reducing the quantity of rice from 7 kg to 5 kg and providing 500 gm of tur dal, 1 kg palm oil, 1 kg salt and 1 kg sugar at subsidised rates to compensate for the reduced rice.
According to sources, the issue was reportedly a major point of discussion in the Congress Legislature Party meeting on Wednesday.