Sonia indicates no rollback on fuel prices, lauds Pranab

New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi Thursday indicated there would be no rollback of a hike in central taxes on petrol and diesel as the government needed resources to meet its social obligations.

“We have many essential social obligations and to meet them it is necessary to raise resources. I congratulate the finance minister for a fine and delicate balancing act (in the union budget) which has been widely welcomed,” she told the Congress Parliamentary Party here.

Referring to a meeting of party MPs Wednesday with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, she said he had briefed them about the salient features of the Feb 26 budget and the government’s new initiatives.

“I am sure this input will help you in countering the opposition’s propaganda,” she said.

Mukherjee had announced a hike in central taxes on petrol and diesel in his budget speech. The decision drew resistance from even some the allies of the Congress besides the opposition.

Gandhi said containing food prices was the foremost priority for the government which had put in place “pro-active policies” to mitigate the hardships of people. She said the crisis was born out of circumstances beyond the government’s control.

Referring to the replies of Mukherjee and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to debates in parliament on price rise and a meeting of chief ministers on the issue convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Gandhi said states should ensure that the public distribution system functioned properly and de-hoarding was effective.

“The food price inflation detracts from UPA’s outstanding accomplishment in sustaining high economic growth that is so essential for generating resources for social welfare programmes and inclusive long term prosperity,” she said.

She described the Food Security Bill “as perhaps the most important pledge” in the party’s manifesto last year and said the government was ready to place the draft of the bill in the public domain for discussion.

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