GUWAHATI: In poll-bound Assam, the BJP-led government has rolled back the COVID-19 cess on petrol, diesel, and liquor.
Presenting a vote-on-account for Rs 60,784.03 crore in the Assembly, Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said petrol and diesel would be cheaper by Rs 5 from Friday midnight. Similarly, the government has decided to roll back 25% cess on alcohol.
Sarma said the government was forced to levy the additional cess on fuel and liquor during the difficult times of the pandemic.
“…Now, as the number of COVID-infected people has got reduced drastically, the government has decided to withdraw the additional cess on petrol, diesel, and alcohol. I am thankful to my Cabinet colleagues who endorsed my proposal on the cess rollback,” the minister said in the Assembly on Friday.
The opposition parties viewed it as a move by the BJP to woo voters. “Fuel hike has been going on all over the country for a long time. Why didn’t they lower the prices before? It is an election stunt. You will notice that once the polls are over, they will hike the prices again,” Assam Congress leader Bobeeta Sarma told this newspaper.
The Asom Jatiya Parishad (AJP), floated last year against the backdrop of the agitation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, also viewed the government’s move as election-centric.
“This is an election-centric decision. For close to five years, they kept hiking the prices of fuel. Now, by lowering the prices, they are trying to attract the voters,” AJP chief Lurinjyoti Gogoi said.
Assam is expected to go to elections in the early part of April. The BJP has set its sights on 100 of the state’s 126 seats.