The stage is set for a stormy monsoon session of Parliament later this month as political parties across the spectrum are up in arms against the government’s decision to double the natural gas price from $4.2 per million British thermal unit (mBtu) to $ 8.4 per mBtu. Critics of the government decision say the hike in the price would largely benefit Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL). All major political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Left, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress, have raised objection to the “exorbitant” hike in gas prices. They will take up the issue in the monsoon session, which may paralyse clearance of several vital Bills. Though the issue was first raised by Left leaders like Communist Party of India’s Gurudas Dasgupta and Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Sitaram Yechury, the issue assumed wider political dimension when Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa and Mamata Banerjee-led TMC also criticised the decision. “The price hike would give huge profit to this large firm (RIL), in lieu of the punishment it received for producing lesser gas than it was guaranteed to produce from the KG D-6 basin.
The price increase would lead companies to stop production of fertilisers like urea and power in future or the price for these produces would go up, which would have an impact on the common people,” Jayalalithaa said. “It would be proper for a new government after the election to fix the price.” Meanwhile, the YSR Congress is set to file a public interest litigation, questioning the criteria adopted to determine the prices. Banerjee’s TMC said it would take up the fight against the move in the Parliament session. “The entire thing is being done at the behest of one company, Reliance. The Centre is helping RIL at the cost of the people,” said TMC Parliamentarian Saugata Ray. DMK, a former ally of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, too, pitched into the battle saying that the price hike decision may lead to power and urea price rise. “While the Centre has to take responsibility for hiking the prices of natural gas and petroleum products, I insist that the Centre come forward to find an alternative without hiking the prices,” with its party supremo M Karunanidhi said in a statement. Last week, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had decided to go for the hike from April next year, which would be subjected to quarterly revision based international prices and liquefied natural gas import prices into India. The decision is expected to cost Rs 42,000 crore for about 28,000 Mw of power capacity dependent on gas, while the fertiliser subsidy would zoom by Rs 13,200 crore per annum. Besides RIL and Cairn India, state-run explorers like Oil and Natural Gas Corp and Oil India Ltd will also benefit from the price hike.