Jaitley accuses opposition of hypocrisy on oil prices

New Delhi: Attacking the opposition parties over their stance on the high oil prices, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday accused Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his “reluctant allies” of only committing to tweets and media statements on the issue while looking the other way when it came to giving relief to people.

Accusing the non-BJP non-NDA states of hypocrisy, he said most of them refused to pass on to the consumers any benefit of increasing revenues on account of rising oil prices.

Accusing them of rejoicing in the political consequences of the increase in crude prices, he said the “serious problem” could not be resolved by “either tweets or television bytes of some opposition leaders”.

“What are the people supposed to conclude? Are Rahul Gandhi and his reluctant allies only committed to tweets and television bytes when it comes to give relief to the common man?” Jaitley asked in a Facebook post.

Claiming that after including the ad valorem VAT and 42 per cent share in the Centre’s revenue, the states were receiving 60 to 70 per cent of the total oil tax, he said: “Must not the non-BJP states be candid with the people and tell them that both in 2017 and 2018 they refused to give any relief to the people even from their higher revenues.”

“They sent out tweets and gave television bytes but when it came to performance, they looked the other way… Even Rahul Gandhi, whose party had inflicted a double digit inflation on India during the past five years of UPA-II, gave television bytes and released tweets advocating a price reduction,” he said.

Accusing critics of doing a volte face by calling the Centre’s decision to cut excise duty on oil as “bad economics”, Jaitley said there was no going back on deregulation of oil prices.

Laying the responsibility on the states to further cut taxes on oil, he said the Centre’s oil tax revenues remain static as it charged a fixed amount, even out of which, 42 per cent is passed on to the states which independently charge their own ad valorem VAT.

“The average VAT rate in the country is about 29 per cent… The states benefit from higher oil prices. Thus, the capacity of the states to give a Rs 2.5 benefit is within their capacity. Yet we have a situation where a number of non-BJP non-NDA states have refused to pass on any benefit to the consumer,” the Minister said.

“I had always maintained that in extraordinary situation, the capacity of an economy to give relief will depend on it’s fiscal strength. In view of the increase, particularly in the direct tax revenue, the Centre decided to give between central excise and the absorptions by the oil marketing companies, a Rs 2.5 relief to the consumer.

“We requested the states to give a similar relief,” he said adding that most non-NDA states refused to do so.

Jaitley said even last October when the oil prices were rising, the Centre had cut down its excise duty by Rs 2 and had requested the states to make a similar cut which most BJP-NDA states did while others refused.

Calling the increase in the international price of crude oil a “serious problem”, Jaitley said it had also impacted the currency situation.

He said while India’s macroeconomic fundamentals were fairly stable and tax collections were encouraging, the high cost of crude oil adversely impacts the current account deficit which, in turn, impacts the currency.