The Congress today hit out at the Modi government over what it described as a "meagre" reduction in excise duty on petrol and diesel, saying it is like applying a band-aid after inflicting a thousand wounds on the people of the country.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala claimed it was a "panic reaction" by the government after facing public ire and an "imminent defeat" for the BJP in upcoming assembly elections in five states, and said the step will bring little relief to the people as it is like "reducing death sentence to life imprisonment".
Alleging over "Rs 13-lakh-crore fuel loot" through imposition of heavy excise duty on petrol and diesel and an equal amount through VAT by BJP-ruled states, he said the people "cannot be be fooled" anymore by the government and demanded answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
"Facing public ire and imminent defeat in the five election going states, Modi Government attempted to apply 'band aid' on the thousand wounds inflicted by it by massive profiteering in the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene oil, cooking gas, CNG, PNG and natural gas," he said.
"It is a panic reaction against the people's anger," he said.
"Let Prime Minister Modi remember that he cannot befool the people of India. We challenge the PM and FM to answer to people," he told reporters.
The opposition party demanded that the fuel prices be brought to the 2014 level and that petrol and diesel be brought under the GST regime.
The Congress leader dubbed as "lies" Arun Jaitley's claim that the tax base has risen under the NDA government and said the buoyancy in taxes is due to money collected through rise in excise duty on petrol and diesel in the last 52 months.
"Since May 2014, Modi Government has fleeced and duped the common people by draconian taxation of Rs 13 lakh crore.
"While FM Jaitley 'lies' again by saying that the increase in government revenue is on account of increase in tax base, he hides the Rs 13 lakh crore 'fuel loot' completely, which is fuelling the coffers of Modi Government," he said.
"The prime minister and the finance minister must answer the people for this 13-lakh crore 'fuel loot'," he said.
Mr Surjewala said the government must also answer to the people for hiking central excise duty on 12 occasions, raising the central excise on petrol by 211 pc and on diesel by 443 pc.
He said the customs duty has been increased manifold times too. When Congress demitted power in May 2014, central excise duty on petrol was merely Rs 9.23 per litre and the Modi government has raised it to Rs 19.48 per litre, he said, adding that in May 2014, excise duty on diesel was merely Rs 3.46/litre and the Modi government raised it to Rs 15.33/litre.
"Giving a paltry relief of Rs 1.50 per litre is insignificant and like a needle in the haystack," he said.
Randeep Surjewala asked why the "fuel robbery continued when the prices of crude oil reduced by 45 per cent internationally".
He said on May 16, 2014, the price of crude oil was $107.09 per barrel and the present price of international crude is $86 per barrel, with the average crude price during 52 months of Modi government being $58 per barrel, nearly 45 per cent less than the UPA tenure. Still, the petrol and diesel prices continue to skyrocket at much higher levels during Modi government, he said.
The Congress leader also questioned why the government was selling petrol and diesel "cheaper" to 29 countries.
He said while petrol and diesel in India are sold in the range of Rs 84 to Rs 91 and Rs 75 to Rs 80 respectively (Delhi and Mumbai), an RTI reply has revealed that Modi government is selling petrol to 15 foreign countries at just Rs 34 per litre and selling diesel to 29 foreign countries at a pittance of Rs 37 only. These countries include England, Australia, America, Malaysia and Israel.
"This is how Modi government has betrayed and back-stabbed the people of India and the prime minister must answer this," he said.
He also sought answers for what he called the "double loot" by way of taxes imposed both by the BJP-led central government and the states ruled by the party.
"Exorbitant VAT/Sales Tax in BJP/allies ruled states is burning a hole in people's pockets," he said and asked why they were not reducing VAT.
In a statement, Mr Surjewala alleged that states like Maharashtra "have imposed high VAT of 39.12 pc on petrol and 24.78 pc on diesel. Rajasthan has 30.80 pc (reduced 4% because of Bharat Bandh ) and 24.09 pc (reduced 4% because of Bharat Bandh) on petrol and diesel respectively and Madhya Pradesh has 35.78 pc and 23.22 pc on petrol and diesel".
The Congress leader demanded that the government explain the reasons for the rising prices of LPG and CNG.
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