Rajat Sharma


akb full In a big relief to consumers, particularly homemakers, the Union Cabinet on Tuesday reduced the price of LPG cooking gas cylinder by Rs 200. It was described as a ‘Rakshabandhan’ gift by Information & Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur. In his tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed hope that the reduction in cooking gas price will help “our sisters and make their lives easier. I want every sister to be happy and healthy…Rakshabandhan is a festival which enhances happiness of the family.” LPG prices had been rising spirally over the last two years, and in Delhi, its price has touched Rs 1103. Now, each LPG cylinder will be available at Rs 903. The festive season has begun with Onam, Rakshabandhan, and it will stretch to Janmashtami, Navratra, Dussehra and Diwali. A cheaper LPG cylinder will bring smile on the faces of homemakers. Anurag Thakur said, the cabinet has decided to give 75 lakh new LPG connections under PM Ujjwala Yojana to poor families. This will include LPG cylinder, stove and connecting pipe to be given free of cost. For beneficiaries of PM Ujjwala Yojana, the price of an LPG cylinder will now be Rs 703, because the government, in March this year, had given a Rs 200 per cylinder subsidy to Ujjwala beneficiaries. The new cabinet decision will result in a fiscal burden of Rs 7,680 crore on the government. In 2014, there were nearly 14 crore LPG connections in India, and this has risen to nearly 33 crore now. In 2014, one LPG cylinder was being sold at Rs 410, and the then government used to give Rs 831 subsidy on each cylinder. The total cost of one cylinder was Rs 1,241 at that time. On PM Modi’s appeal in 2014, most of the people surrendered their subsidy and now each cylinder costs Rs 1103. There here has been nearly 303 per cent hike in gas prices in the last three years in international market, and yet, the government raised gas price by only 63 per cent. India imports 60 per cent of its gas consumption from foreign countries. In 2015-16, there was 19.62 million metric tonnes of gas consumption in India and this went up to 28.50 MMT in 2022-23. The cabinet decision to reduce LPG prices has been welcomed across the board by common people in cities of India. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge described it as “an election lollypop”. In his tweet, he said, “the government must know that after causing sufferings to 140 crore Indians for nine and a half years, holding out an election lollypop will not wash away its sins..…Modi government must know that it cannot suppress the anger of people in 2024 by giving a Rs 200 subsidy. Modiji, it is good that you now fear INDIA.” Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee gave the credit to opposition unity by tweeting: ‘Till now, only two meetings have been held in the past two months by the INDIA alliance and today we see that LPG prices have gone down by Rs 200. Yeh hai, INDIA ka dum.” NCP leader Supriya Sule, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi and several other opposition leaders demanded more reduction in LPG price. Petroleum Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said, chief ministers of opposition ruled states should now reduce duties on petrol and diesel. It is true that millions of people belonging to middle class and lower middle class were suffering due to increased LPG prices after the abolition of subsidy. The latest decision of the cabinet has given them relief. As far as politics on this issue is concerned, reactions of opposition leaders clearly show that BJP can gain advantage in elections by reducing LPG price. Congress had promised to give cheap LPG cylinders in Karnataka and implemented it. Rajasthan government has announced it will give LPG cylinder at Rs 500. Congress has been making promise in Madhya Pradesh that it will sell LPG cylinder at Rs 500. If opposition parties can reduce or promise to reduce gas prices before elections, then there is no point in raising objections over Modi government’s decision. The privilege of offering essential products at cheap prices does not belong to opposition parties alone. By reducing LPG price on the occasion of Onam and Rakshabandhan, Narendra Modi has forced the opposition to do a rethink on its election strategy. The opposition leaders may be claiming that Modi reduced gas price because of pressure from united opposition, but I think, Narendra Modi is a clever player in electoral politics. He knows what step to take and when. This decision is surely going to be discussed in the opposition alliance meet in Mumbai.

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