Several Opposition leaders criticised the Centre after it slashed excise duty on petrol by Rs 5 and diesel by Rs 10. This reduction is effective from Thursday.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said that the decision to reduce the excise duty was made “out of fear, not from the heart”.

“The vasooli [extortion] government will get an answer for the loot in the coming elections,” she tweeted.

Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram claimed that the reduction was the result of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s loss in several constituencies in the bye-polls to 30 Assembly and three Lok Sabha seats. The results were announced on Tuesday.

The BJP and its allies had won all the five seats in Assam and a handful of constituencies in Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka. But the saffron party lost all the seats in other states, including West Bengal, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.

The BJP had also lost the Karnataka’s Hangal seat – the home district of Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai – as well as Haryana’s Ellenabad constituency.

“It [reduction of excise duty] is a confirmation of our [Congress’] charge that fuel prices are high mainly because of high taxes,” Chidambaram tweeted. “And our charge that high fuel taxes is because of the greed of the central government.”

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala also claimed the reduction was done due to the party’s loss in the bye-elections.

“In year 2021, price of petrol were hiked by Rs 28 and diesel by Rs 26/litre,” he tweeted. “After losing 14 bye elections and 2 Lok Sabhas, reducing petrol-diesel price by Rs 5 and Rs 10 is tom-tommed as ‘Diwali Gift’ of [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi Ji!”

Party leader KC Venugopal said the “meagre” reduction in excise duty after steep increases in the last few years was an “eyewash”. He alleged that when the international crude oil prices were the lowest, “the Modi government did nothing to pass the benefit to common people but increased the excise duties”.

Relief only if fuel prices are reduced by Rs 50: Lalu Yadav

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav described the slashing of prices as a “mischievous move” and said that the public would get relief only if the rates were brought down by Rs 50.

Yadav said that price cut was inadequate, and alleged that the Narendra Modi government was “doing drama” by making the reductions.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut made a similar demand, saying that the BJP needs to be defeated completely if fuel prices have to be brought down by Rs 50, reported PTI.

He added that the reduction of petrol price by Rs 5 will not serve any purpose. He said that the prices should have been brought down first by at least Rs 25 and then by Rs 50.

The Shiv Sena leader said that it was a harsh decision to raise the fuel prices to over Rs 100.

BJP praises petrol, diesel price cut

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has provided a “huge relief” to the public by cutting down the excise duty on petrol and diesel.

“This relief given is a very sensitive decision even after the increased prices at the international level,” Shah said. “I thank Modiji for this.”

Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan rejected the Opposition’s charges.

In response to Chidambaram’s tweet, Pradhan tweeted: “If the accusation is being sensitive to people’s demand and sharing their sorrow, we happily accept it as the Modi government stands for being with the people in their happiness as well as in grief.”

States follow suit, reduce VAT

Following Centre’s decision, so far 14 BJP-ruled states and Odisha also announced a cut in the value added tax on fuel.

Assam, Goa, Tripura, Manipur, Karnataka, Gujarat and Sikkim reduced the value added tax on both petrol and diesel by Rs 7.

The Uttarakhand government also announced that petrol in the state would become cheaper by Rs 7. Uttar Pradesh and Haryana reduced the prices of petrol and diesel by Rs 12 per litre.

Bihar, which is ruled by BJP’s ally Janata Dal (United), announced that the prices of petrol would be reduced Rs 3.20 per litre and diesel by Rs 3.90 a litre.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jairam Thakur said his government would issue a notification regarding the reduction in value added tax on petrol and diesel.

The Odisha government led by the Biju Janta Dal announced a reduction of Rs 3 on value added tax on petrol and diesel each. The changes in the state would be effective from midnight on Friday.