Amit Bishnoi/Arup Chakraborty
There are many ways to remain in power. Using money and strong-arm tactics may be part of it. Yet, a narrative the ruling dispensation scripts and presents to the people is the strongest of all devices to stay in power for a longer period. The cadre-based ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has the capacity to set that narrative the people believe in and vote it to power again and again. Ergo, for the first time in the past 70 years, it happened that many are supporting the skyrocketing prices of commodities.
The latest is the hike of Rs 50 a cylinder, the second increase in rates in just over six weeks. Now, a non-subsidised LPG cylinder costs Rs 999.50 in the national capital. On March 22, when the prices of LPG cylinder were hiked Rs 50 a cylinder, it was available for Rs 949.50. Since April 2021, prices of LPG cylinders have shot up by Rs 190. The prices of diesel and petrol simultaneously increased, though they have been on a freeze for over a month now.
Non-subsidised cooking gas is the one that consumers buy after exhausting their quota of 12 cylinders at subsidised or below-market rates. The government barely pays subsidy on LPG in most cities and price of the refill that consumers, including the poor women get under the much-talked Ujjawala scheme, is the same as the non-subsidised or market price LPG. Rates differ from state to state. Earlier this month, the price of commercial LPG cylinders was increased by Rs 102.50.
Ruling party’s narratives
The ruling party has, however, come up with a narrative in defence of price rise. At the outset, its spokespersons said that the prices of all essential items had shot up because of the corona-induced lockdown. As far as prices of essential commodities go, every country is facing the same problem as India is facing. Now that the argument has become old enough for the people to accept it, they have come up with another narrative. They say that as the government is providing free rations worth Rs 1,00,000 crore and houses of the equal amount to the poor, price rise is bound to occur. It means the government is not responsible for what is happening.
They have come up with another narrative that the prices of petrol and diesel have gone through the roof because of the Ukraine crisis, and that inflation is a global phenomenon. The country had, however, the tools to stop inflation, but the government failed to use them in time. The process has started since November 8, 2016, much before the corona pandemic or Ukraine crisis.
Another story they have come up with is that the state governments run by other political parties take more VAT on petrol and diesel; whereas the BJP-ruled states charge less taxes. Thus, the governments of those states are responsible for price rise. The Centre has, however, kept away from saying that the state governments run by other parties do not get the fair share of the Goods and Services Tax. The Central Government also avoids saying anything about how much it spends on advertisements.