Riding bullock carts, horse carts and bicycles, Congress leaders and workers took to the streets on Monday in country-wide protests against the fuel price hike and accused the Centre of adding to the financial hardships of the people reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.
Scores of mask-wearing protesters were detained by police for violating coronavirus lockdown restrictions related to assembly of people. In Congress-ruled states like Rajasthan and Maharashtra, the ministers too joined the demonstrations.
Participating in the Congress' 'Speak Up Against Fuel Hike' campaign across the country, party president Sonia Gandhi accused the BJP-led central government of setting "a new example of extortion", and sought an immediate rollback.
Party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also took part in the campaign on social media, and urged the people to join them in pressing the government to reduce fuel prices.
Diesel price has been hiked 22 times and petrol price has been raised 21 times since June 7 with a cumulative increase of Rs 11.14 and Rs 9.17 respectively. "I, along with all Congressmen and others together, demand from the Modi government to immediately roll back the increase in prices of petrol and diesel raised during this crisis due to the corona pandemic," Sonia Gandhi said in a video message.
"The government has set a new example of extortion from people through this unjustified increase in petrol and diesel prices. This is not only unjust but also insensitive," she added.
The agitating Congress leaders and workers in Punjab rode horse carts with scooters loaded on them. State Congress chief Sunil Jakhar along with MLA Angad Saini, Punjab Youth Congress chief Barinder Dhillon and other local leaders pulled a tractor with ropes.
"Farmers cannot afford to run tractors now with such a steep hike in diesel rates," Jakhar said.
AICC General Secretary Harish Rawat rode a bullock cart in Dehradun during the protest and performed puja at a Shiva temple praying for "good sense" to prevail on the central government.
Leading a dharna at the Congress office, its Uttarakhand chief Pritam Singh said his party "will not tolerate this loot of people's money by the Modi government".
Rajasthan Congress president and Deputy CM Sachin Pilot led the protest in Jaipur. He said that petrol and diesel prices directly affect the common people. The Centre did not form any policy to deal with the economic slowdown and passed the burden on the common people, he said.
"No govt can ignore people's voice. Petrol-diesel price hike will have to be reversed,” Pilot said before submitting a memo to the President through the district collector.
BJP: Govt using oil money for welfare of poor, not RGF
New Delhi: BJP leader and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan hit out at the Congress on Monday, saying the central government is using the tax revenue earned from the petrol and diesel sale to fund welfare programmes for the poor and not for any "son-in-law or Rajiv Gandhi Foundation".
Pradhan said, “The tax earned from petrol and diesel is being spent on healthcare, generating employment and giving people financial security. The BJP government uses people's money for the poor's welfare through direct benefit transfer. It is not like the Congress, which would use the revenue for welfare of a son-in-law and the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF)." “Sonia Gandhi is saying so because the Congress has for generations used power to transfer money meant for government schemes to bank accounts of son-in-law and the RGF,” he alleged.