Kolkata, Jul 25: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee slammed the UPA government for hiking petrol and diesel prices 'suo motu' in seven states and demanded its immediate rollback while threatening to go for a 'political confrontation' with the Centre.
''We consider this decision as suo motu, one-sided, wrong and demand its immediate rollback,'' Banerjee told reporters at Writers' Buildings (the secretariat) shortly on her return from Delhi where she attended the presidential swearing-in. ''Why was such a decision taken without consulting the state governments and UPA allies at a time when we were busy attending the swearing-in ceremony of President Pranab Mukherjee in Delhi this morning ... This amounts to cheating the people,'' she said.
The oil companies and the union petroleum ministry decided on the hike 'sitting at home in the name of recalibration of rates'. ''Why was such an exercise undertaken nine years after it was decided in 2003?'' The recalibration, she said, was done only to withdraw subsidy. ''Subsidies have to be given in the interest of the poor. Centre realises maximum revenue from the state leaving very little for them.''
''Do not force us to go for political confrontation (with the centre) or we will take to the streets," Banerjee said.
The hike would affect a poor state like West Bengal and 'add salt to injury'. ''West Bengal is suffering from lack of funds due to debt left by the former Left Front government and allowed by their friends the Congress at the centre. The state has not received a single paise from the Centre since my government came to power, including the 3-year moratorium on loans that it had been repeatedly asking for."
Banerjee said since 2003 two governments had completed their terms at the Centre. ''Why is the recalibration being done now after nine years? You (Centre) have to review the situation if a decision of 2003 has to be implemented now.''
''I think no right has been given to anyone to increase the burden on people and impose taxes tactfully through different plans,'' the Trinamool Congress (TC) chief, who had been vocal in the past against moves either by the centre or the oil companies to hike oil prices, said.
''The Centre hiked petrol price by Rs 8 at one go. Now it should tell clearly what is the subsidy it is giving and what it is withdrawing ... We don't like blackmailing and cheating the common people everyday.''
She said since TC had protested against the Centre for rise in prices of essential commodities, pressure was being put to 'defame allies like us running governments in the states and to create an atmosphere of confrontation among the states'.
''I fail to understand the way the government is running (at the Centre). We will be forced to take to the streets and choose the path of confrontation if such things take place,'' she added.