New Delhi: A partial rollback in the petrol price hike is on the cards with the Central Government realising that the steep increase of over Rs 7.50 per litre could have a very heavy political cost. Sources say that while the Congress wants the rollback to be in the range of Rs 3-5, the government is likely to go ahead with a cut of around Rs 2-2.50 per litre. The final decision will be taken after Petroleum Minister Jaipal Reddy returns from Turkmenistan.
Sources say the Congress has also distanced itself from the decision to hike petrol price, saying that it was a unilateral step and the party was not consulted. Asking the government to rollback petrol price by at least Rs 3, the party also advised the government not to go ahead with an increase in diesel price, which is politically much more crucial.
The Congress argument is that the timing of the petrol price hike was wrong as it came just a day after the Parliament's Budget Session came to an end and two days after the United Progressive Alliance Government completed three years in power.
Even Congress allies and some of its chief ministers have demanded a rollback, saying that the steep hike was not necessary when the inflation was already spiralling out of control. Key allies like the Trinamool Congress and DMK have said that they were not consulted on the hike while Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to reconsider the decision.
"We have made a commitment to support this government and that is the reason we are not moving out. But our support does not mean that we cannot protest. We believe that the government is being unjust, it's one sided and not correct," said Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The Opposition is already fuming, demanding a rollback. The NDA has called for a nationwide bandh on May 31 but the Congress termed the move 'misleading'. Congress leader Rashid Alvi said, "It is a very difficult decision taken by oil companies. The companies are compelled to take such decisions due to a rise in the dollar. The NDA should not misguide the country by going on a strike. They know the situation of the country."
Left parties on Thursday staged protests against the hike in petrol price. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa also demanded an immediate rollback of the hike.
In Delhi, petrol pump owners sought additional security fearing violence. Many pumps also put a cap on sales. Public anger over the decision was evident, with protests in many cities.Fuel price in some major cities
Interactive graph: Fuel price hike 1989 to 2012
Quick calculator: What the Rs 7.5 petrol price hike will add to your monthly fuel bill