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Petrol price pot boils

New Delhi, June 1: A moderate rise in petrol and diesel prices looks inevitable with the Left appearing to soften its stand today.

CPM leaders Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury had a 30-minute meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to explore ways of “minimising the impact” of the hike on the common man.

They held another meeting with colleagues from other Left parties, in which they decided to launch a nationwide agitation if their suggestions to “minimise the burden on the people were not considered”.

Despite these noises, officials said, the Left seems to have reconciled to a small rise in prices.

The officials said the price of petrol needs to be raised by Rs 2.87 a litre and that of diesel by Rs 3.73 a litre in line with the hike in excise duty, road cess and crude prices.

But the actual increase may be far less because of the Left pressure and the need to keep prices stable ahead of the crucial elections in Bihar.

Left leaders told a news conference they had suggested to the government that it bear the burden of the hike caused by post-budget changes in the excise duty structure on petroleum products.

Apart from Yechury and Karat, the Left parties’ meeting was attended by A.B. Bardhan and D. Raja of the CPI as well as Debabrata Biswas and G. Devarajan of the Forward Bloc.

The Left leaders told the Prime Minister that the additional 50-paise-a-litre road cess on petrol and diesel should be suspended for the current year.

They also suggested that since almost 70 per cent of crude is imported, international parity on prices should not be imposed on petrol.

“If international import parity is to be applied, it should be done on crude and not on petroleum products,” Yechury said.

They also said that calculation of petro goods prices should not be based on under-recovery by public sector oil companies.

These PSUs, according to the Left, should cut down their spending, particularly on advertising.

Officials said that although oil prices are not listed on the agenda for tomorrow’s cabinet meeting, it could be taken up as a special item.

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