In a very refreshing, albeit belated, twist, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is
seen to be standing up to the communist allies who support the Government from
the outside but have only increased the level of pain of operation on several
policy fronts. The new area of conflict is the much-delayed decision to raise
the prices of petrol and diesel to reflect market prices.
The communists argue that prices of oil cannot be raised because that would
increase the prices of other commodities and will affect the population at
large. They argue that the subsidy from the government has been shifted to oil
marketing companies and that the revenue earned by the government has gone up
from Rs 96,000 crore (USD 21.5 billion) to Rs 126,000 crore (USD 28 billion).
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) has urged the Government to “correct
this policy distortion in the interest of the common people.”
Peeved by the relentless aggressive meddling of CPM leader Prakash Karat on
larger policy issues ranging from social to foreign affairs, Singh cancelled
his scheduled visit to Kolkata, the bastion of CPM to send a strong message
that he will no longer accept the known as the “Prakash Karat line.” Singh is
said to be unhappy with the way the Left had been going ballistic on issues
such as the petroleum price increase, modernization of airports, and public
sector divestment. Singh sees the same degree of “aggression and cussedness” as
before the elections—the implication being that election grandstanding is one
thing and arm-twisting is another.