Friday, March 12, 2010

Budget backlash

The fuel price hike Announced by the finance minister has galvanised the opposition to close ranks in a rare show of unity. But will the sound and fury translate into long-term political gains? Pramod Kumar reports

In the final Cabinet meeting prior to the presentation of the Union Budget this year, three important financial decisions were taken. As the meeting drew to a close, the petroleum minister made a request for a hike in fuel prices. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee assured him that some steps had already been taken through the excise duty channel. But agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and railway minister Mamata Banerjee warned that a fuel price hike would fan anger against the government and adversely affect the prospects of the UPA in Assembly elections scheduled for the coming months.

Mukherjee replied that not hiking fuel prices would adversely affect the pace of pro-people projects. So the allies advocated a 'wait and watch' policy: increase the prices of petrol and diesel and then gauge the popular reaction; if things threaten to snowball, get the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to intervene and order a partial rollback. It was also suggested that the time-lag between the hike and the eventual rollback could be utilised to lessen the oil pool deficit. In that scenario, the Congress would have its cake and eat it too, it was pointed out. But the fuel price hike triggered something that the Congress had not bargained for: new-found unity in the Opposition ranks which had for months been in disarray. In fact, a few parties that support UPA from outside have also thrown their weight behind the hue and cry raised by the Opposition. By protesting both inside and outside the ring, the two Yadav satraps — Lalu and Mulayam — have made it amply clear that they might even withdraw their unilateral support to the UPA on the issue of price rise. Political pundits, however, feel that this will not affect the UPA as it enjoys a comfortable majority.

The problem is that this approach by the allies has found resonance in the Congress itself. Some elements in the ruling party are not convinced with the logic trotted out for raising the petroleum prices through the Budget. Party leader Digvijay Singh has already expressed his reservations on the issue. Similarly, there is unease among the youth brigade too. In fact, the son of petroleum minister Murli Deora, Milind Deora, has openly come out against the decision. And he minced no words. He went as far as to write letters to both Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh seeking their intervention.

Congress strategists believe that such a step was necessary to correct certain financial misadventures of UPA-1. They claim the priority for the current regime is to strengthen the economy. Prior to the Budget, Mukherjee had clearly explained all the tough measures and had assured the Cabinet committee that although these measures would hurt momentarily, they would lead to long-term benefits. They would help put the economy back on track following the recession. He put forth the same explanation in the aforementioned Cabinet meeting too.
For Complete IIPM Article, Click on IIPM Article

Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2009

An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

Read these article :-

Outlook Magazine money editor quits
Don't trust the Indian Media!

No comments: