Question Hour in RS becomes full-fledged debate on high excise on fuel

NEW DELHI: Opposition’s questions on cess and excise duty on petrol and diesel prices resulted in a heated and full-fledged political debate in the Rajya Sabha on Monday with the opposition and treasury benches levelling charges against each other, including the poor performances of Congress and BJP in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab assembly polls.
While the opposition heavily criticised the high level of excise duty levied by the Centre as it dismissed the government’s claims that the prices are decided by oil marketing companies, Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri dragged Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, without naming him, in the discussion and also cited that 97% of Congress candidates in Uttar Pradesh polls lost their deposits to counter the charges. In turn, Congress’s K C Vengugopal pointed out how BJP had nothing to rejoice in Punjab polls citing that Puri belonged to the state.
Both the treasury and opposition benches kept on attacking each other despite repeated appeals by vice-chairperson Vandana Chavan to both sides to confine themselves to the questions and not to turn the question-answer session into a debate.
Responding to a question from CPM member John Brittas on whether the Centre would stop the practice of bringing in cess and surcharge, which he claimed denies the rightful share of the state governments, Puri said certain taxes were raised for a particular purpose, but the ultimate test of this is, what is the price at which petrol or petroleum products are made available to the consumer.
He added that when the situation warranted the brought down the excise on petrol and diesel by Rs 5 and Rs 10 respectively from November 4, 2021. “I thought that all the elected representatives would be rejoicing at the fact that the price paid by the consumer has remained steady during that period but I did not see that,” he said.
The minister also said nine states including Maharashtra and Kerala have not brought down the excise.
Without naming Rahul Gandhi who had said petrol and diesel prices would go up after assembly poll results are out, Puri said, “On 5th March, a political leader made a statement, saying, fill up your tanks quickly because petrol prices are going to go up as elections are over. And the consumption went up by 20%… It is a matter of shame that one statement led to hoarding of 20%. Should we be controlling prices or should we be making statements to encourage hoarding?”
Puri rejected all allegations of the government’s role in no increase in petrol and diesel prices since November due to polls.

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