NEW DELHI: As part of its nationwide plan to corner the Centre on price rise, including those of petrol and diesel, Congress leaders will hold press conferences across the country up to July 15 and highlight the "failures" of the government.
Congress leader P Chidambaram will address the media in Delhi and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, will hold a press conference in Mumbai.
Senior leaders of the 'Group of 23', including Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari, Shashi Tharoor and Mukul Wasnik, who had written to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi seeking an overhaul of the party, have also been involved to address the press.
Former Union minister and deputy leader of the Congress in Rajya Sabha Sharma will address the media in Jaipur, Tewari in Ahmedabad and Tharoor in Chennai.
Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath will address a press conference in Lucknow, while Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel will speak to reporters in Nagpur.
AICC general secretary Ajay Maken will address the media in Bhopal, Digvijaya Singh in Shimla and Salman Khursheed in Ranchi.
In Dehradun, former Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot will address the media.
Former Union minister Subodh Kant Sahay will address the press in Raipur and party leader Mohan Prakash in Patna.
Congress leader Deepender Hooda will address a press conference in Hyderabad, Dinesh Gundurao in Thiruvananthapuram and Shaktisinh Gohil in Guwahati.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala has said that high prices are adding salt to injury.
Burdening people with high prices during an "acute" economic slowdown is what "the insensitive, uncaring Modi government has done", he said.
Instead of putting money in the hands of people, this government is forcing them to pay higher for basic things, Surjewala said.
He claimed that 23 crore people have slipped below the poverty line.
The good work done by the UPA government has been undone.
"We had pulled 27 crore people out of poverty during our tenure," the Congress leader said.
Two crore people lost their jobs in April and May, 97 per cent people are earning lower wages and job losses and wage cuts have forced people to withdraw almost Rs 1.25 lakh crore out of their provident funds, which is retirement money for most, he alleged.
The Congress leader said high inflation is criminal when Gross Domestic Product growth is shrinking.
"Not all of this economic ruin is due to corona (COVID-19) alone. Our economy entered the pandemic with huge co-morbidities - our growth dropped from 8.2 per cent in FY17 to 4.1 per cent in FY20 - all due to the dreaded demonetisation, the ill conceived Goods and Services Tax and the flawed policies of the Modi government," he alleged.
He said petrol rates have crossed the 100-rupee mark in all four metro cities and in more than 250 cities for the first time in history.
Between January 1 and July 12, petrol and diesel prices have been increased 66 times.
The Narendra Modi government has earned more than Rs 25 lakh crore through excise duty in the last seven years, Surejwala said.
High excise duty on petrol and diesel is highly regressive as it affects the middle class and lower income groups, both directly and indirectly, he said, adding that high prices of diesel are anti-farmer as they are the direct consumers of the fuel and an increase in cost affects them directly.
Surjewala said the UPA government used to bear loss on diesel to keep prices in control as it directly affects inflation and transportation costs.
The previous UPA government bore as much as Rs 1.64 lakh crore 2013-14 and Rs 1.42 lakh crore in 2012-13 as the under recovery (loss on account of selling petrol below the market prices), while the Modi government reduced under recovery on diesel to zero in September 2014, he said.
Surjewala said various ministers and spokesperson from the BJP have tried to blame Oil Bonds issued during the UPA rule for the rising petrol and diesel prices but this is just another non-factual attempt at evading questions.
The purpose of issuing oil bonds was to protect final consumer from huge financial burden in the form of high prices of petrol and diesel, when the crude oil price in the international market was very high, he said.
"The 140 crore people of India are suffering the Modi-made disaster of inflation, unemployment, economic recession and Corona pandemic.
Everyday hike in fuel prices had further compounded the problems by making ends meet a challenge for every household," Surjewala said.
"Thus, the increase in the prices of diesel fertilizers-seeds-pesticides-electricity-agriculture equipments effected by the Modi government has increased the cost of cultivation for the farmer by about Rs 20,000 per hectare," he said.
The Congress leader also alleged that raising petrol prices is not dynamic as all depends on election schedule.
Stating that the issue of inflation and the rise in fuel prices will dominate the Parliament session beginning July 19, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on Monday alleged the Centre had collected Rs 25 lakh crore through fuel tax but it is neither using this fund for the welfare of people nor giving it to state governments.
Addressing a press conference here, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said the Narendra Modi government had made the lives of ordinary people "miserable" in the last seven years.
''Prices of fuel, LPG, edible oil are at an all-time high. The Centre has collected Rs 25 lakh crore as tax on fuel but it is not being used for people's welfare or being given to state governments,'' Kharge alleged.
He said the Modi government had raised prices of fuel "326 times including 38 times in the last two months".
"The Central tax on fuel during the UPA rule was Rs 9.48 (per litre) which is now Rs 32.90 (per litre). During the tenure of the UPA, the rate of crude oil was Rs 111 per barrel and the petrol price was Rs 71 (per litre). Contrary to this, when the rate of crude oil is 44 USD per barrel the price of petrol is Rs 107 per litre now," he said.
He said while the Union government has "collected Rs 25 lakh crore in the fuel tax" and the rate of LPG cylinder has reached Rs 834 the subsidy has also been withdrawn.
"The prime minister had said direct benefit transfer (DBT) would ensure savings of Rs 15,000 crore, which means the government has saved almost Rs one lakh crore this way. But the Modi government is not using this money for the welfare of people and also not providing it to state governments," Kharge said.
He said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had suggested that Rs 6,000 be transferred in bank accounts of the poor, but that idea was rubbished.
"During the UPA rule, 27.1 per cent people were lifted above the below poverty line whereas 23 crore people were below the poverty line (BPL) as of last year. Due to the wrong policies of the Modi government, the income of 97 per cent of families had reduced," Kharge said.
He said 1.33 lakh people lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic while the per capita income fell by Rs 10,000 and GDP dipped by 9 to10 per cent.
Kharge said Maharashtra is yet to receive Rs 32,000 crore in GST refund from the Centre.
The Congress is one of the ruling constituents in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government comprising the Shiv Sena and the NCP.