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TMC ups ante, stages protests across Bengal

According to sources, the ruling party has set its sights on upstaging the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the 2024 general elections and is keen on latching on to such national issues to take the fight to the saffron camp.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
July 11, 2021 6:04:39 am
TMC Leader Firhad Hakim (C) with party activists during a protest against the hike in fuel prices in Kolkata, (PTI)

The Trinamool Congress on Saturday staged protests across the state against rising fuel prices, following Covid-19 protocols. According to sources, the ruling party has set its sights on upstaging the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the 2024 general elections and is keen on latching on to such national issues to take the fight to the saffron camp.

Petrol is currently retailing at over Rs 101 per litre and diesel at more than Rs 92 per litre in West Bengal, while the price of domestic LPG has touched Rs 861 per cylinder.

Protests were organised at Dum Dum, Central Avenue and Chetla areas of Kolkata, Canning in South 24 Parganas, Chinsurah in Hooghly, Malda and other parts of the state.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the skyrocketing fuel prices are “burning holes in the pockets of the working-class population”. Petrol and diesel prices have increased eight times since May, and six of the hikes happened in June.

The CM on Monday had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reduce the taxes imposed by the central government on petrol and diesel. In a letter to the PM, Banerjee noted that in several other states the price of petrol has crossed Rs 100 per litre. “Your government has increased the prices of petrol and diesel 8 times since 4th May 2021. The prices have been increased 6 times in June and 4 times in a week, it is shocking. The common people are the most affected and (are) worried about rising prices of fuel,” read the CM’s letter.

She wrote that between 2014 and 15, since the BJP came to power, tax collection from oil and petroleum products have jumped by a staggering 370%. The CM added that considering the plight of the common man, her government had decided to give a discount on the prices of petrol and diesel. She claimed that despite hardships faced by the people in the middle of a pandemic, the Centre had collected revenue worth Rs 3.71 lakh crore from oil and petroleum products in the financial year 2020-’21.

Speaking on the surging fuel prices, state Transport Minister Firhad Hakim said on Saturday that the Centre has imposed enormous taxes on petroleum products, causing a lot of hardships for the common man.

Prices of petroleum products were unregulated, allowing oil companies to hike market rates as well as their share prices, Hakim claimed. He added in time, the situation would help the Centre sell state- run oil companies to foreign investors.

BJP state president Dilip Ghosh scoffed at the protests by the ruling party saying taking to the streets will not bring down the prices of petroleum products. “Prices of petroproducts are linked to the international market. When the international market stabilises, prices in the country will also be moderated,” he said.

Sources said the Trinamool chief has already laid out a roadmap to corner the BJP nationally. She was in conference with her political strategist Prashant Kishor for close to three hours at her Kalighat residence on Friday to draw up an action plan for the future. They agreed to a drastic change in the party’s organisational set-up at the district level. It is understood that at the core of Trinamool’s organisational changes at the district level is a desire to implement the policy of ‘one person, one post’. As part of the policy, most leaders holding more than one organisational post would be replaced.

The brainstorming session between the CM and the ace political strategist also focused on a long-term plan for the Trinamool to extend its footprint in national politics. After returning to power with a resounding mandate, the party had made it clear that its chief had now set sights on playing an active role in national politics.

A major organisational reshuffle is expected to take place in the Trinamool next week, with the party chief likely to reassign roles and responsibilities based on the performances of its leaders in the Assembly elections.

Sources said the rejig is likely to be effected across ranks and the election performance would prove to be the deciding factor as it was during the polls that the party had a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of its leaders.

A number of Trinamool leaders switched over to the BJP in the run-up to the polls and some even ended up contesting against their former colleagues. Sources in the party said that good workers are likely to be rewarded with good posts so they have an incentive to work harder.

The party has already come out with a ‘one person, one post’ policy and it will be implemented during the reshuffle. According to sources, the rejig will see a lot of district presidents being replaced. The Trinamool, it is understood, will also ensure no one its youth wing is older than 40 years of age and it will see a revamp with focus on youth.

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