Bengaluru, (DHNS): In a new twist to the Congress-JD(S) alliance story, Coalition Coordination and Monitoring Committee chairperson Siddaramaiah on Wednesday publicly opposed Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s decision to hike petrol and diesel prices. “The Narendra Modi government at the Centre has hiked fuel prices nine times, which has burdened the common man. At the national level, the Congress is fighting Modi on this issue. In this context, I have written to the chief minister to roll back the 2% hike in the rate of tax on petrol and diesel,” Siddaramaiah said while speaking at an event to mark Dinesh Gundu Rao’s coronation as Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president. Siddaramaiah’s stand fuelled speculation in political circles that Kumaraswamy, during his reply on the budget discussion in the legislature on Thursday, may announce the withdrawal of the tax hike on either petrol or diesel.
This could become a fresh bone of contention between the alliance partners since the fuel price hike was necessary for Kumaraswamy to mobilise additional resources to waive Rs 34,000 crore of crop loans, his poll promise. Siddaramaiah had originally supported Kumaraswamy’s taxation measure. The fuel price hike would not burden the common man, the former chief minister had said. However, he changed his stand after chairing the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting on Wednesday morning, where legislators were critical of the budget. Siddaramaiah also asked Kumaraswamy to restore the supply of 7 kg of rice under the Anna Bhagya scheme, which the budget has brought down to 5 kg. “Our government started Anna Bhagya to ensure a hunger-free Karnataka,” he said. Again, it was speculated that Kumaraswamy may restore the supply of 7 kg of rice under the flagship scheme.
Kumaraswamy has maintained that all his budgetary proposals were approved by the Congress-dominated Cabinet. According to sources, not only did Congress legislators oppose the fuel tax hike and repackaging of Anna Bhagya, they also pointed out that the budget had little for north Karnataka and coastal Karnataka. “How do you expect us to face the Lok Sabha polls with a budget like this?” they reportedly asked the party’s leadership. “The budget has meted out injustice to north Karnataka and there is no allocation or announcement of new schemes for religious minorities. This was discussed,” senior Congress leader H K Patil told reporters after the CLP meet.
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