HYDERABAD: The move to reduce Central excise on petrol and diesel by the BJP-ruled Central government has sparked a fresh battle over the prices of these two fuels in Telangana between the state Bharatiya Janata Party unit and the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti.
The BJP, on Sunday, led by its state president Bandi Sanjay Kumar and Union minister G. Kishan Reddy, demanded an immediate reduction in the value added tax (VAT) imposed by the state government on fuel to give further relief to common people.
However, state finance minister T. Harish Rao dismissed the opposition clamour, ridiculing the Central excise reduction as ‘penchindi baarana, tagginchindi chaaraana’ (they raised rates by a lot, reduced just a bit).
Calling the Central excise reduction an "attempt to cheat people", Harish Rao said, “These are bogus claims... a mere humbug. Let the Central excise levels return to what they were when the BJP came to power in 2014. Then the BJP may speak about what Telangana government, which never hiked VAT on fuels, should do.”
The top two BJP leaders, on their part, stuck to their guns and accused the KCR-led government of "looting the public" through VAT on petrol and diesel. The issue is expected to figure in its state executive meeting expected to be held on Monday.
Kishan Reddy said that fuel prices rose because of Covid-induced financial conditions, which the Russia-Ukraine war only exacerbated, making the increase in prices of crude unstoppable. India, along with the likes of the USA, and the entire world, has been affected.
“The Central government cut the excise rates to reduce burden on common people, but the Telangana state government has not given any relief to people. This, despite many other states doing so. Telangana has the highest taxation on petrol and diesel in the country. The TRS must immediately reduce taxes to help people,” he said.
Sanjay said that Telangana, instead of cutting down VAT to bring down the cost of petrol and diesel to around Rs 80 a litre, was busy blaming the Centre for fuel prices.
“The BJP demands that the state immediately cut the VAT rates. The state is earning Rs 30 a litre on fuel. The state government must explain why it is refusing to reduce tax. Is it because the state no longer has funds and depends on fuel taxes,” Sanjay asked.
Meanwhile, Harish Rao, speaking to reporters and responding to the BJP demands, said that when the NDA government came to power in 2014, the Central cess on diesel was Rs 3.46 a litre, which rose to Rs 31 a litre now. The BJP led government still collects Rs 16.40 as cess per litre of petrol.
“Let the BJP bring down the Central excise to the level of March 2014. Then it can talk about Telangana’s tax rates,” he said.
“You (the BJP) increased it bit by bit. Penchindi chaantaadu, dinchindi mooredu (increase was steep, cut is nominal). Let BJP answer this. Instead, they are patting themselves on the back and doing ‘palabhishekams’ for their leader,” Harish Rao said.
Several other BJP leaders, including former minister and party’s national vice-president D.K. Aruna demanded that Telangana immediately reduce VAT on fuels.
In a statement, she said that the state should at least now stop being adamant and reduce taxes to provide relief to people. While party spokesperson N.V. Subhash said that if Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao had even an iota of sincerity of leading a people-friendly government left, then he must cut the fuel taxes immediately.
In Khammam, district BJP president Galla Satyanarayana said that the Centre was foregoing Rs 1 lakh crore a year in revenue by reducing taxes on fuels for the sake of common people. The state too must cut its tax on petrol and diesel to help people, he demanded.