- Dealers said customers were heading to nearby states for cheaper fuel
- But Kejriwal claims the strike is sponsored by the BJP and oil companies
- The strike call comes in the midst of fuel price cuts by the centre
Around 400 petrol pumps in Delhi that also sell Compressed Natural Gas will remain shut for 23 hours from 6 am today in protest against the Delhi government's refusal to reduce Value Added Tax on diesel and petrol. The protest was called by the Delhi Petrol Dealers Association on October 10 - days after 13 states slashed VAT following a request by Union Minister Arun Jaitley.
Announcing the shutdown, the Delhi Petrol Dealers' Association had said customers were flocking to buy petrol and diesel from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, where fuel was cheaper.
"The price reduction in UP and Haryana has led to a decline in sale of petrol by 20% and diesel by 30% in Delhi till October 15. It is expected to further decline in the coming days," Nischal Singhania, president of the Delhi Petrol Dealers Association, told NDTV. Talks between petrol pump owners and the Delhi Government regarding reduction in VAT on petrol and diesel in the capital has been inconclusive so far and they have decided to go ahead with the 23-hour shutdown, he added.
However, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that the strike was politically motivated. "Petrol pump owners have told us privately that this is a BJP-sponsored strike, actively supported by oil companies. In fact, the BJP has thrust it on petrol pump owners. People will give the BJP a befitting reply in the elections for continuously inconveniencing people through their dirty politics," he tweeted on Sunday night.
On Sunday, petrol price in Delhi was slashed by 25 paise and came down to Rs. 81.74 per litre. Diesel was sold at 17 paise less -- at Rs. 75.19 per litre. Across the other major metros, petrol was priced at Rs. 87.21 per litre in Mumbai, Rs. 83.58 in Kolkata and Rs. 84.96 in Chennai.
The centre had slashed fuel prices on October 4 by Rs. 2.50 in an attempt to provide relief to consumers and the states were asked to match the cut. The cut was effected through a slash of Rs. 1.50 per litre in excise duty, while oil marketing companies absorbed the rest. A VAT cut meant the states would have to bear a cut of Rs. 2.50 for each litre of petrol sold.
After centre's request, BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Tripura and others, announced price cuts.
Mr Kejriwal tweeted that while PM Modi's government had increased the excise duty on fuel by Rs. 10, it reduced the cost just Rs. 2.50 on Sunday. "It is a sham. The centre should have at least reduced prices by Rs. 10 per litre," he tweeted.
Kerala - another opposition-ruled state - said there would be tax cuts only if fuel prices were brought down to the level when PM Modi assumed office in May 2014.
The petrol dealers' body had also flagged concerns about the environment since the cleaner Euro VI grade fuel is currently available only in the National Capital Territory. Buying low-grade fuel from neighbouring states will push up pollution levels in the national capital, it said.