Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday attacked the Narendra Modi-led government for the continuing increase in fuel prices, accusing it of setting “a new example of extortion”, and sought an immediate rollback, PTI reported. Gandhi also accused the government of “profiteering” at the expense of the people.

Government-run oil companies on Monday raised the rates for petrol and diesel, after a day’s pause. Sunday was the first time fuel prices remained unchanged since June 7, when oil firms resumed the daily revision of rates after 82 days.

Gandhi’s remarks were part of the Congress’ “Speak Up Against Fuel Hike” countrywide campaign. The party launched the campaign earlier on Monday in an attempt to coerce the government into lowering fuel prices.

“I, along with all Congress workers and others together, demand from the Modi government to immediately roll back the increase in prices of petrol and diesel raised during this crisis due to the corona[virus] pandemic,” Sonia Gandhi said in a video message. “I also urge them to roll back the rise in excise duty on petrol and diesel since March this year and give this benefit to the people.”

The Congress president stressed that the prices of petrol and diesel have been increased 22 times since the government imposed a lockdown to combat the coronavirus on March 25. She pointed out that petrol is, on average, costlier by Rs 9.12 per litre, and diesel by Rs 11 per litre.

Gandhi said the increasing petrol and diesel prices since March is proof of the fact that the government is taking the hard-earned money of the people to fill its coffers. “The government has set a new example of extortion from people through this unjustified increase in petrol and diesel prices,” she alleged. “This is not only unjust but also insensitive.” Gandhi said that the continuous increase hurts the farmers, the poor, the working class, the middle class and the small businesses.

The Congress chief also said that since 2014, when it first came to power, the Modi-led government has raised the excise duty 12 times, which helped it collect additional revenue of nearly Rs 18 lakh crore. “All this is happening at a time when the international crude oil prices are continuously falling,” she said.

Maharashtra Congress holds protests

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra unit of the Congress staged protests across the state. Several Congress ministers, including Balasaheb Thorat, Ashok Chavan and Nitin Raut, protested at the party office in Mumbai.

“The petrol and diesel prices have been increased by the Centre in last some days,” Thorat, who is the president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, said. “The prices should be slashed as people are already affected by the lockdown.”

Former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan led a protest in Sangli city. In Kolhapur, minister Satej Patil staged a protest along with supporters.

Other Opposition parties have also been staging protests against rising fuel prices in different states. On Thursday, Rashtriya Janata Dal leaders Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav rode bicycles along with party workers in Patna city to protest the huge increase in the prices of petrol and diesel. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh led a similar protest in Bhopal on Wednesday.