NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday attacked the Modi government over the ongoing farmer agitation and the hike in fuel prices, and said the country is today standing at the crossroads for the first time since Independence.
On the hike in fuel prices, she accused the government of profiteering and said it is turning a disaster into an opportunity to fill its coffers.
She also alleged that the government is breaking the back of the poor, the farmers, and the middle class due to its "insensitivity".
"I demand from the government that the rates of excise duty on petrol and diesel be made similar to that during the UPA regime and provide immediate relief to the affected people.
"I once again appeal to the government to repeal the three farm laws immediately and fulfil all the demands of farmers," she said in a statement.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also accused the government of "looting" the people by imposing heavy taxes on fuel and alleged that this is the reason it is not bringing them under the purview of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
"There has been unprecedented 'development' in prices of petrol and diesel.
The Modi government is looting the public by charging heavy taxes on fuel.
This is the reason why the government is not willing to bring petrol-diesel under GST," he said in a tweet in Hindi.
Sonia Gandhi said in the midst of a collapsing economy due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Modi government is trying to turn the disaster as an opportunity to fill its coffers.
She said while the price of crude oil is USD 50.
96 per barrel -- just Rs 23.
43 per litre internationally -- diesel is being sold for Rs 74.
38 and petrol at Rs 84.
20 per litre in the national capital.
This is the highest in the last 73 years, she alleged.
"The country is standing at the crossroads today for the first time in the history of independent India.
On one hand, the country's 'annadata' is standing on the borders of Delhi for the last 44 days in support of their legitimate demands, while the country's autocratic, insensitive and ruthless BJP government is busy breaking the back of the poor, farmers and middle class," she said in a statement.
The Congress chief said despite lower international prices, the government has broken all records of profiteering by exorbitantly raising excise duty instead of passing on the benefits to common people.
In the last six-and-a-half years, the Modi government has increased excise duty to recover about Rs 19,00,000 crore from the pockets of common people, she said.
She also said that the BJP government has increased the price of gas cylinders that has hurt the budget of every household.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also demanded that the government rolls back the fuel price hike and help provide relief to the common man by reducing the taxes on fuel.
He also urged the government to take back the farm laws and agree to the demands of farmers, who took out a tractor rally around Delhi in support of their demands.
"Modi ji, if you still do not agree, then your ego and autocracy will lead to the downfall of your anti-people government," he said.
"To the blind and deaf government, this is the strength of the organisation of the 'annadata'.
Realising the seriousness of this farmers' struggle in the fierce cold, immediately withdraw all three black laws," he said in a tweet in Hindi and shared some of the pictures of the farmers' tractor rally.
"The Modi government that came to power by making promises of providing cheap petrol and diesel, if it withdraws the 'excise duty' imposed by it in the last 6.
5 years, the public will be largely benefitted.
Then, petrol will sell at Rs 60.
42 per litre and diesel at Rs 46.
01 per litre.
But it will not do so.
This is a game of loot," he also said.
He accused the government of "fleecing" people, profiteering from the miseries of common people and decimating the budgets of the poor.
"This has become the mantra of the Modi government," he alleged.
"The Congress demands that the Modi government immediately rolls back the excise duty on petrol and diesel and give relief to the common people already facing the vagaries of insurmountable inflation as also the economic slowdown and recession," Surjewala said.
Petrol price on Thursday scaled to an all-time high of Rs 84.20 per litre in the national capital after state-owned fuel retailers hiked rates for the second day in a row.
Petrol price on Thursday was hiked by 23 paise per litre and diesel by 26 paise a litre, according to a price notification from oil marketing companies.
In Delhi, petrol now costs Rs 84.20 per litre and diesel is priced at Rs 74.38. In Mumbai, petrol comes for Rs 90.83 a litre and diesel for Rs 81.07.
This is the highest ever price of petrol in Delhi, while diesel is at record high in Mumbai.