Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee would only say after the hike was announced, "The decision has been taken. Petrol is a deregulated commodity."
But no one is completely buying that argument. Mulayam Singh Yadav took centre-stage at the UPA celebrations yesterday, but his Samajwadi Party was clear today that while it saved the government time and again, it would not support "rise in prices or corruption." We demand immediate roll back of the petrol price hike. The decision is anti-people. UPA government has given this gift to the common man on completion of its three years' rule," SP spokesman Rajendra Chowdhury said. He said the SP would protest against the decision and raise its voice against the "unreasonable hike".
An angry Ms Banerjee said her party was not pulling out of the government since she did not want to destabilize the government, but warned the Congress that it did not have a majority on its own. It should have consulted allies, she said, especially in Parliament, which was in session till yesterday. She also said that the government should not have allowed such an economic situation to come to pass. She demanded a rollback. (Read)
Another ally the DMK too said it had not been consulted. In Chennai, DMK chief M Karunanidhi said his MPs would talk to the Prime Minister to reconsider the decision. Neither Mamata Banerjee nor M Karunanidhi attended the UPA celebration dinner last night. Significantly, Mr Yadav's presence at the dinner was perceived by many as signalling that the Congress had a replacement if Ms Banerjee decided to quit.
The BJP too has demanded a rollback, accusing the Congress-led UPA government of burdening the common man through its "mismanagement of the economy".
The main opposition party has said it will take its protest against the price hike to the streets. The BJP's Shahnawaz Hussain said the Congress would be taught a lesson in the elections and warned UPA allies that they would face collateral damage for being seen supporting the Congress. He accused the UPA of celebrating three years in power yesterday when the economy was reeling. "The government had taken this step emboldened by the presence of new allies," he said, alluding to leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Lalu Yadav of the RJD sharing stage with the UPA.
His colleague Nirmala Sitharaman accused the UPA government of using global economic conditions as an excuse for its mismanagement of the economy and said the hike was much more than the rise in oil prices globally. Meanwhile, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "Massive hike in petrol prices is a prime example of the failure of Congress-led UPA. This will put a burden of hundreds of crores on Guj."
Saying that the latest price hike had added "fuel to the fire", given the current economic situation, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK chief J Jayalaithaa demanded for an immediate rollback of the rise in price. (Read)
Left leader D Raja said, "The government has failed to manage the economy. They have failed to manage the fiscal and the monetary situation in the economy. They will not stop here, this is just a prelude. They will hike the prices of diesel and other petroleum products. We will protest on the streets and they will have to roll back the prices." The CPM said the economy was in a state of collapse.
Immediately after the massive hike was announced, the Congress fielded its spokesman Rashid Alvi to deflect criticism. He said the Congress had nothing to do with the hike and neither did the government that it led. "Global prices are up and the oil companies take their own decisions after petrol deregulation. India is part of the world and so it is affected too," Mr Alvi said.