Hitting out at the Centre over spiralling fuel prices, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra said Friday that the NDA government should have built an “oil reserve” to tide over such crisis situations. The BJP-led ruling dispensation at the Centre lacks the ability to make strategic decisions, he alleged. “Any mature democracy would have created a reserve for use as buffer during times of crisis. When the question of NDA government acting mature with a strategic vision arises, the answer will always be a ‘no’,” Mitra said at India Today regional conclave here.
According to the Trinamool Congress minister, an oil reserve is built when rates are low so that it could be used later to rein in rising prices. “Had the Centre built a reserve, the common man would not have faced the music. The TMC would have done so, if it was in power,” he asserted.
When asked if the TMC government in Bengal intended to reduce fuel prices by rationalising state taxes, Mitra, however, did not give a clear reply. The TMC government had last month announced a cut in state tax, bringing down the prices of petrol and diesel in Bengal by Re 1 per litre.
“The cut on fuel prices by Re 1 per litre was a gesture on the part of the state government. It was not meant to provide respite to the people. Also, there was no increase in taxes by the West Bengal government, it had nothing to do with the rise in prices of petro products,” he stated. The finance minister also accused the Narendra Modi-led government of introducing Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the country without adequate infrastructure.
“The tardy implementation of GST has caused lot of pain to small and medium enterprises. Add to that, hawala transactions have been on rise in the country due to the shortcomings of the GST network software,” he claimed. The combined revenue shortfall of all states was estimated to be to the tune of Rs 55,400 crore due to unplanned GST rollout, the minister said.
To a question whether he was looking forward to a seat in Delhi alongside Mamata Banerjee, Mitra said, “all parties have a wish.” The minister also clarified that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee always works for a cause, “not for the lust of power”.
“When 57,000 companies left West Bengal under Left Front she fought for the sake of the people. Now, when India is going through financial turmoil, she is trying her best to save the situation. She always works for a cause,” Mitra added.