Govt says no longer possible to jeopardise the financial health of oil companies.
A reversal in the petrol price rise looks unlikely. Despite open threats from allies like Trinamool Congress (TMC), the government seems to be in no mood for a rollback — partial or otherwise. Even the DMK, NCP and National Conference have joined the Opposition in demanding a price reversal.
Speaking to Business Standard, a Cabinet minister, asking not to be named, said: “It is no longer possible to jeopardise the financial health of oil companies. It is affecting their creditworthiness.” Dismissing talk of a pullout by TMC chief Mamata Banerjee or even a withdrawal of the party’s ministers from the Cabinet, the minister described these as “political noises” not amounting to much.
Therefore, the speculation of a rollback did not seem likely, added the minister, even as sections within the Congress had been demanding the same, given the political implications. The party will be contesting polls in five states early next year.
As for threats from TMC, which has reaffirmed that the strength of its 18 MPs mattered in giving the UPA a Parliamentary majority; the Cabinet minister described this as “Mamta Banerjee playing to her constituency.”
“After all, Calcutta South, the parliamentary seat vacated by Mamata, goes to polls on November 30. So, it is understandable when she makes such political noises,” said another Congress insider.
The Congress has been reiterating that the TMC was part of the decision-making process for decontrolling petrol prices and, therefore, was well aware of the implications.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi denied the party had made any specific demand for a rollback.
“We never talked about what the government should do or what policies it should make. We have only said that keeping in mind the sensitivity of the issue and the concerns, it should do whatever it can to provide relief to the common man,” he said.
Another Cabinet minister added, “Mamata Banerjee was part of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) which, in June 2010, had decided to deregulate or free petrol prices. Though she had not attended the EGoM meeting on June 25, 2010, her consent was taken. She continued in the Union Cabinet after the decision was made and did not threaten to withdraw support even once.”
What the party has failed to do is to convey this message and the need for deregulating petrol prices to the common man, conceded a Congress leader.