The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Left declares oil price war on Centre

New Delhi, Nov. 5: The oil and gas price hikes ignited a flare-up among the allies today with the Left parties demanding a rollback and threatening they knew what kind of 'treatment' to give the government if it took decisions without consulting its allies.

Wagging a finger at the alleged 'audacity' of the Centre, CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet said: 'If the government does not listen to us, we know the treatment. Hum ilaaj karenge.' Asked what that 'treatment' would be, he replied: 'Ilaaj ek din mein nahin hota.'

In Calcutta, too, Left temperatures rose. 'We asked them (Centre) not to hike fuel prices at the moment. But the government has effected the hike without consulting us,' senior CPM leader Jyoti Basu said.

A week-long agitation has been lined up in Bengal starting on Monday to push for a rollback.

In Delhi, the Left constituents ' the CPM, CPI, Forward Bloc and the RSP, as well as the Citu and Aituc ' jointly condemned the 'anti-people' move. CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury said it was an 'unnecessary' step that was proof the government was 'not listening to us'.

CPI leader D. Raja spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and urged him to reconsider the decision. He told reporters the Left parties expected the Centre to heed 'reasonable advice' and not take unilateral decisions.

Yechury said the gas price hike in particular would affect crores of people. The financial burden should have been passed on to oil companies and not to the consumers, he added.

The Left parties would soon put their heads together to decide their course of action, Yechury said. It was true global oil prices had risen of late but they had dipped by seven dollars in the last few days and the Left had urged the Centre to wait two weeks till the markets stabilised after the US elections, he pointed out.

Raja said the Left had made a couple of suggestions that the government had ignored. Warning that the allies should not be taken for granted, he iterated the Left parties did not agree with the hikes and the government should change the focus of the common minimum programme to a 'pro-poor' one.

Rising LPG prices would upset the family budget of crores of people and the diesel hike would have a cascading effect on the economy, Raja said.

'We want the government to stay in office and perform. But if it fails to perform, the Left parties will not hesitate to fight and oppose it.'

As the heat from its friends and rivals ' the BJP said this was the fourth time prices were raised since the UPA took charge ' rose, the government said the hikes were a signal to consumers that global crude prices were running high and resources needed to be used efficiently.

In Mumbai, Union economic affairs secretary Rakesh Mohan said duties could not be cut endlessly. The government had to consider revenues also and could not impose excessive burden only on oil companies.

'Someone has to pay for it. There is no free ground.'

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