Ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has taken out more than a dozen rallies against the rising fuel prices over the last 10 days under MP Abhishek Banerjee’s leadership with an eye on the next year’s Lok Sabha polls. The party has chosen rising cost of living because of fuel price hike as the main plank to connect with the people ahead of the elections.
“The skyrocketing prices of fuel… gas cylinders will be our main agenda for public rallies until the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The common people are fuming… BJP will pay for it,’’ food and supplies minister Jyotipriya Mullick told The Sunday Express.
He said they have to make people understand the BJP’s victory will lead to inflation. “The entire public distribution system depends on fuel prices,’’ he said. “Increase in (fuel) prices will ultimately increase those of other commodities as the production cost will go up. People are affected… the BJP will see its impact in 2019. You cannot fool people for long.”
Mullick claimed gas cylinder prices will be increased by Rs 50 to Rs 55 every two months. “Soon people will buy a gas cylinder for Rs 1,000 and that would be ‘acche din’ for the BJP.” The CPM has launched an online campaign blaming the BJP-led Centre for the price rise. “Petrol and diesel prices have shot up to an all-time high. The government has increased taxes 11 times since it came to power,’’ the party tweeted. “The central excise duty on petrol increased by 133 per cent and on diesel by 400 per cent.”
The party called the government a “loot sarkar, jhoot sarkar” and said its four years in power have been “full of tears”. The people have begun to feel the pinch. “Ultimately, it is the middle class which suffers the most. Now that petrol prices have gone up like never before, we are under too much pressure,’’ said Arvin Sharma, an accountant. “The fares have gone up. Other products have become costly. Political parties will keep making it their election agenda. There will be no ‘acche din’ ever for the common man irrespective of which party is in power.”
Transporters have threatened to go on a strike to press for fare revision even as the state government recently announced a Rs 1 increase in bus fares. Fares of taxi and other vehicles too have been increased. Bengal Taxi Union president Bimal Guha said the number of taxis in Kolkata has been dwindling. He warned the taxis will disappear if the government continues to look the other way.
West Bengal Truck Operators Association’s Sajal Ghosh said the rising fuel prices are not the only issue. The ever-increasing toll taxes are another burden for truckers,’’ he said. “Due to tough competition and fragmentation, truck operators can neither dictate freight rates nor unite to demand a freight rate increase. Freight rates are mostly decided by brokers, who balance the supply and demand for trucking.”
Petroleum dealers are struggling with losses too. The Petrol Dealers Association claimed about 25 per cent dealers have moved to other businesses in last two years because of losses. It would take a final call on its April 18 strike after a meeting with transport minister Suvendu Adhikari on Sunday.