Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Covid review turns into political blame game

PM Modi ‘names & shames’ Oppn states for fuel taxes

A review of the Covid pandemic in the light of a fresh spurt in infections by Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned into a platform for political oneupmanship as Opposition-ruled states were targeted for not cutting taxes on petrol and diesel.
In his first statement on rising fuel prices in India, Modi took aim at Opposition-ruled states while stating that BJP-rules states like Karnataka and Gujarat reduced Value Added Tax on fuel and passed on the benefits to people, despite the move hurting their treasuries. He added, “However, states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Telangana, Maharashtra, Kerala and Jharkhand did not reduce tax on fuel, and should do it now.”
“It has become imperative to increase the coordination between the Centre and the states and uphold the values of cooperative federalism,” Modi said.
Opposition hit back about GST and VAT
In a press statement, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera pointed out that the Centre did not give GST share to the states.
“[Modi] earned Rs 26 lakh crore out of central excise on petrol and diesel. Has he shared it? You didn’t give the GST share to the states on time and then you ask states to further reduce VAT. He should reduce central excise and then ask others to reduce VAT,” Khera said.
The Opposition-ruled state governments accused Modi of lying to ‘cover his failures’, treating non-BJP states with a ‘step-mother attitude’ and attempting to deflect criticism targeted at the central government.
Telangana: KT Rama Rao, Telangana minister and working president of ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi, took to Twitter to allege that fuel prices had shot up because of the central government.
He wrote, “Name-calling states for not reducing VAT even though we never increased it – is this the co-operative federalism you’re talking about Narendra Modi ji? Telangana hasn’t increased VAT on fuel since 2014 and rounded off only once.”
He added, “We don’t get 41 per cent of our rightful share because of the cess imposed by your government. In the form of cess, you are looting 11.4 per cent from the state and we are getting only 29.6 per cent for FY23. Please scrap cess so we can give petrol at Rs 70 and diesel at Rs 60 all over India. One Nation – One Price?”
West Bengal: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has said that Modi’s appeal to Opposition states to reduce fuel tax has a ‘political agenda’. Further, she asked the Centre not to ‘burden’ state governments.
She said, “I ask you, Modi ji, not to talk about these things in a Covid meeting. He [Modi] is telling us to decrease the tax and he will loot the tax. The PM should not speak like this, he cannot burden states like this. He said states should reduce tax but he hiked the price! This is a one-sided remark which is totally misleading.”
She said that the West Bengal government had been giving a subsidy of Re 1 on fuel for three years and lost Rs 1,500 crore as a result, but this was not mentioned by PM Modi.
“We said share fuel revenue 50-50. But they [Centre] did not agree. They take away 75 per cent. The Centre has earned lakhs of crores on fuel but nothing is shared with the states. The Centre owed Rs 97,000 crore to Bengal – give me that money and we’ll give subsidies. It is not true that we don’t want to provide relief to the common man but Centre is imposing a huge burden on us,” she said.
Further, Mamata Banerjee alleged that the Centre favoured BJP-ruled states and gave ‘step-mother’ treatment to others. She said, “Why should Opposition-ruled states face discrimination and step-mother attitude? This is also one type of extortion. Don’t bulldoze democracy and federal structure. You [Modi] gave all the money to BJP-ruled states and not Opposition-ruled ones.”
Tamil Nadu: A Saravanan, spokesperson of the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, said that fuel prices are sky-high due to the Union government’s cess.
He said, “Most important aspect is cess doesn’t devolve to the state government. We make a counter-proposal to the prime minister. Please don’t collect cess and make it VAT – at least the price that you take will devolve to the state governments.
“Yet another aspect is the DMK has not raised these prices. We had reduced petrol prices by Rs 3. Also, the VAT prices were set by AIADMK. The PM instead of giving gyan should give VAT to the state… The Union government has earned Rs 26 lakh crore in last eight years – where has all this gone? The PM is trying to deflect the criticism against him,” he added.
Maharashtra: Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said that the state government cannot be held responsible for the spike in fuel prices.
He said, “Today, in the price of one litre of diesel in Mumbai, Rs 24.38 is for the Centre and Rs 22.37 is for the state. In petrol price, 31.58 paise is central tax and 32.55 paise state tax. Therefore, it is not a fact that petrol and diesel have become more expensive due to the state.”
Additionally, Uddhav Thackeray said that his government had already given citizens tax relief on natural gas.

Covid challenge not fully over yet: PM

PTI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the challenge of the Covid pandemic is not fully over yet, with the increase in coronavirus cases in the last two weeks manifesting the need to stay alert, and underlined that vaccination remains the biggest protective shield against the virus.
Speaking at an interaction with chief ministers on the emerging COVID-19 situation in the country, the prime minister also said the government’s priority is to vaccinate all eligible children at the earliest with special campaigns needed in schools.
Asserting that India has fought a long battle against Covid in the spirit of cooperative federalism enshrined in the Constitution, PM lauded the chief ministers, officers and all corona warriors for their efforts. Modi asserted it was clear that the coronavirus challenge is not fully over yet.
At the interaction, Union Health Secretary gave a presentation.


Don't Miss