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regular-article-logo Friday, 23 February 2024

Congress to highlight soaring prices of petroleum products

The three-phase programme starts with a call for drum-beating at 11am on March 31

Our Special Correspondent New Delhi Published 27.03.22, 01:25 AM
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at a party meeting in New Delhi  on Saturday.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at a party meeting in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI Photo

The Congress plans a “Mehngai-mukt Bharat” (inflation-free India) campaign to highlight the soaring prices of petroleum products and other essentials, accusing the Narendra Modi government of continuing to fleece the people.

The three-phase programme starts with a call for drum-beating at 11am on March 31.

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“On March 31, at 11am, Congressmen and people will protest outside their homes and in public places with garlanded gas cylinders and beat drums and other instruments and ring bells,” party communications chief Randeep Surjewala said.

The objective is “to draw the attention of the deaf BJP government to the prices of gas-petrol-diesel”, he added, speaking after a meeting of general secretaries had drawn up the agitation programme.

Mehngai-mukt Bharat dharnas and marches will be held in all the districts between April 2 and 4, and at state capitals on April 7, Surjewala said.

Indian Youth Congress members protest in Delhi on Saturday against the rise in prices of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and other essential commodities.

Indian Youth Congress members protest in Delhi on Saturday against the rise in prices of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and other essential commodities. PTI Photo

Asked whether the Congress was taking lessons from Modi’s thali-bajao programme — the Prime Minister had in March 2020 asked people to bang on plates to keep the coronavirus at bay — Surjewala said a protest against rising prices could not be compared to an unscientific gimmick.

The Congress is, however, taking a risk by calling for public demonstrations against the price rise.

While people are doubtless angry at the savage hikes in the prices of fuel, vegetables and other essential eatables, mobilising support for the campaign will not be easy for the party.

Modi’s call for plate-banging and clapping had, however, drawn wide support two years ago. The BJP has for years enjoyed the support of the middle classes and urban residents, and Modi was able to stir nationalist sentiments by portraying the fight against Covid as a collective responsibility.

Rahul Gandhi has kept up his attack on the Prime Minister, tweeting: “Raja kare mahal ki taiyyari, praja bechari mehngai ki maari.”

The message is that Modi is focused on his new palace — a dig at the Central Vista project — while citizens are reeling under high prices.

The meeting of Congress general secretaries also discussed the ongoing membership drive that ends on March 31.

Surjewala said Modi’s decision to freeze fuel prices for 137 days to secure votes and to raise them after the Assembly elections had caused suffering, with the steep prices derailing the budgets of poor and middle-class households.

“In the last five days, the hike in petrol and diesel prices has been Rs 3.20 per litre,” Surjewala said.

He recalled that the UPA government had sold petrol at Rs 71.41 and diesel at Rs 55.49 per litre at a time crude prices had risen above $108 a barrel.

Petrol and diesel cost Rs 108.01 and Rs 93.01, respectively, in Calcutta on Saturday.

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