Congress-ruled states will give three extra subsidised cooking gas cylinders, the party announced today. The Congress-led UPA government had announced an annual six-cylinder cap on subsidised cylinder for every family last week.
This announcement puts the party at odds with the government's reforms agenda, that is being led from the front by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Congress spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi said, "Sonia Gandhi has asked Congress Chief Ministers that now the government's decision of subsidising six cylinders should be increased to nine. Now nine cylinders will be given at subsidised prices."
Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress has demanded that the cap of LPG cylinders be increased to 12 annually.
Congress-ruled Delhi has already announced it will give three more cylinders, above the cap of six, under a scheme to make the state kerosene-free. This is restricted to some 3.5 lakh poor families.
A subsidised cylinder costs about Rs 400 and the market price is Rs 700, which what families will have to pay if they want LPG over and above the cap of six (or nine, if they are in the Congress ruled state).
The cap on LPG cylinders along with a rise in the price of diesel and allowing foreign investment in retail has created a crisis of survival for the UPA government. The Trinamool Congress, pulled out of the UPA yesterday in protest, leaving the government in a minority in Parliament. The government is now dependent on the outside support of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. But both are opposed to the reforms announced last week.
In fact, SP is keeping the Congress on tenterhooks with party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav saying that the leadership will decide only tomorrow about the arrangement it has with the UPA. "Let this be a wake-up call for the Congress," he said. SP has 22 MPs in Parliament and BSP 21.