A hike in the prices of diesel, LPG and kerosene was today put off apparently following strong reservations within the Congress even though Oil Minister S Jaipal Reddy said the increase was unavoidable.
A meeting of Congress Core Group attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi discussed the issue after a scheduled meeting of the Cabinet Committee was called off. The Congress leadership deliberated at length over the issue at the meeting at the Prime Minister’s house where Reddy was a special invitee. The meeting continued for half an hour even after Reddy left after making a strong pitch for the increase citing unprecedented losses of Rs 1.88 lakh crore due to rise in crude oil prices and fall in rupee.
He is believed to have received support from Finance Minister P Chidambaram who had earlier made it clear to the Oil Ministry that the exchequer did not have money to fund the ballooning subsidies. However, there was opposition at the Core Group meeting to any immediate move to hike fuel prices. The CCPA is likely to meet now on September 18 to have a fresh look on the issue. Earlier in the day, after meeting Chidambaram, Reddy told reporters, “As I said before, however painful and difficult the increase in price of oil product may be, increase is unavoidable. (To) What extent can consumer take (it) is another matter.”
He said, “If it (price hike) is not taken up today, decisions may have to postpone by few days. However I would like to tell the people (that) the increase in price is unavoidable. We will have to perform our unpleasant duty.”
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