Congress disputes ruling LDF's claim of having reduced tax on fuel in Kerala

Oommen Chandy. Photo:ANI

Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress-led UDF in Kerala on Sunday disputed the LDF government's claim of having cut taxes on petrol and diesel, after the Centre slashed excise duty on the two fuels, saying it was just a consequence of the Central government's decision and not a conscious reduction by the state.

Former Kerala chief minister and veteran Congress leader Oommen Chandy contended, in a press release, that it was unfortunate that the state was claiming it has cut tax on petrol and diesel, when in reality the reduction was a proportionate decrease due to the slash in excise duty by the Centre.

This contention was denied by state Finance Minister K N Balagopal who, while speaking to reporters here, claimed that the reduction of Rs 2.41 and Rs 1.36 in taxes on petrol and diesel were a conscious decision and not a proportionate decrease.

He said the state has decided that when there is a reduction in price of petrol and diesel, it would reduce the taxes on them.

Chandy, an MLA from Puthuppally constituency in Kottayam district of the state, further claimed that the reduction in excise duty by the Centre was only a nominal relief as it had earlier increased the same to Rs 27.90 from Rs 9.48 and Rs 21.80 from Rs 3.65 on petrol and diesel, respectively.

He further claimed that during the UDF rule from 2011 to 2016, when fuel prices went up, the government waived the increased tax four times giving a relief of over Rs 600 crore to the people and the same is what is expected from the Left government.

Chandy also contended that even with the proportionate reduction in petrol and diesel taxes by Rs 2.41 and Rs 1.36, respectively, the state government still receives more tax revenue from the two fuels as compared to the Centre.

Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the state assembly V D Satheesan also asked the LDF government to waive the extra revenue it earns from fuel taxes.

Speaking to reporters amidst the by-poll campaigning in Thrikkakara in Ernakulam district of the state, he claimed that every time the fuel prices go up, the revenue of the state government also goes up and this fact was not being disclosed by the present and ex-finance ministers of the state.

Satheesan said the opposition was asking the state to waive the extra revenue it gets whenever the Centre raises taxes and not to reduce the fuel tax it levies.

The state government in the last six years received an additional Rs 6,000 crore in tax revenue, he claimed.

The LoP said the Centre's reduction in excise duty was nominal and it should be prepared to make further reductions.

Balagopal hit back at the Congress and UDF, saying that during the latter's rule from 2011 to 2016, taxes on fuel were increased 18 times and reduced four times.

Whereas, after the LDF came to power in 2016, it has not increased the taxes on fuel and even reduced the same in 2018, he said.

He further said the present cut in excise duty by the Centre comes after the manifold increase in the same after BJP came to power. The minister said the Centre needs to reduce it much further.

A similar line was taken by ex-Kerala Finance Minister and CPI(M) leader T M Thomas Isaac who said that first the Centre should reduce the excise duty on fuel back to what it was (during the UPA regime) and then only should the southern state be asked to slash its taxes on the same.

The Union government on Saturday had cut excise duty on petrol by Rs 8 per litre and that on diesel by Rs 6 per litre to give relief to consumers being battered by high fuel prices which has also pushed inflation to a multi-year high. PTI

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