State fuel tax becomes a political issue
The demand for the state government to reduce local taxes on gasoline and diesel threatens to become a major political issue.
Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wanted the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government to follow the Centre’s lead and reduce the state fuel tax to cushion the inflationary fallout from soaring international crude prices. .
Both sides have warned of street protests if the state government does not grant fuel tax relief to consumers. On Friday, the government was quick to explain its inability to reduce the local fuel tax and sought to blame the Center.
Finance Minister KN Balagopal said the Center had preserved the prohibitive fuel tax while reducing excise duties, thereby depriving states of their share of the federal levy.
The CPI (M) interpreted the Centre’s action as an electoral ploy in Uttar Pradesh which went against the grain of fiscal federalism. There were no immediate elections in Kerala, and the fuel tax campaign targeting the state government may not be politically perilous for the DFL.
However, the CPI (M) feared that the protests would re-energize the agitated opposition and harmonize with the protest against K-rail. In addition, people have directly felt the pressure of high prices for fuel and cooking gas on basic commodities and everyday goods and services.
Amplified by social and mainstream media, they have voiced their resentment daily against gas pumps, hotels, supply stores and markets. The CPI (M) organizes party conferences at the local level, and it could not ignore the drumbeat of discontent. The party’s secretary of state is expected to calibrate a counter-campaign soon.
Meanwhile, KPCC chairman K. Sudhakaran warned Pinarayi Vijayan’s government against “sleepless nights”. The government should give fuel tax relief to consumers or face popular anger, he said.
United Democratic Front (UDF) President MM Hassan urged the DFL to follow the lead of a COVID-19 era thief who robbed a house but returned valuables to residents after the end pandemic, and he overcame his financial difficulties.
BJP State President K. Surendran has been more direct. He called on the government to face street protests or cut fuel prices.