“The 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 Gujarat. This decision, coming a day after the ending of Parliament session is a stinging rebuke to the dignity of Parliament!”
So said Narendra Modi, in a Facebook post on May 23, 2012. It may just be a post quoting what he said at one or another rally.
Thereafter he has criticised the UPA government, particularly the Congress, many times over many issues. One of them is the hike in petrol and diesel prices. The Congress-led UPA regime did indeed see many hikes in the price of fuel, before and after the deregulation of 2010. Most often, in all fairness, they had no choice: the international price of crude oil was going up.
One of the best things Modi had going for him as he took charge as prime minister was the falling international commodity prices, particularly crude. If he had passed on the benefits of this to the people, achche din—good times—may have come, even if partially. Retail petrol prices could have been about Rs 20 a litre less and diesel about Rs 17.50 less.
It is not as if the petrol manufacturing companies didn't. But what did the Modi government do? They stepped in and slapped excise duty! It has done so five times so far.
As an opposition party, the BJP had often argued that the petrol price hike was on account of wrong economic policies of the UPA government, and in spite of the international prices going up, the Indian government can bring it down by reducing taxes. At one point in time, when inflation was real—as it now is—a BJP spokesperson had even suggested that nothing would be lost if the government scrapped excise on petroleum products given the way a hike in it hikes up all prices.
Not any more. Now when prices of petrol and diesel go up, they say, it is all on account of deregulation. When they go down, they slap a duty. The real price is never allowed to come down. Deregulation or no deregulation.
At one time, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley spoke of the smart way they were managing finances. When the petroleum prices fell, he said, instead of passing it on, they decided to divert it to education of the girl child. “Beti padhao”, he explained.
Whether or not , they will be able to show educated girls who enrolled when Modi took over as prime minister, they will be able to show innovation. Doing worse than what the UPA did. After all, they won the mandate to effect a change.