Rahul Gandhi’s ‘fuel challenge’ is coming back to taunt his party. When Narendra Modi responded to India captain Virat Kohli’s ‘fitness challenge’ by posting his physical work-out video, Rahul had challenged the PM to, instead, try and cut the high fuel prices.
This came after the fuel retailing companies announced a farcical one-paisa cut, which Rahul described as a prank on the people and in poor taste. It was, indeed, ‘Advantage Rahul’ as his shot seemed to have hit the bull’s eye. But, come July, and his party’s junior partner heading the Karnataka government has given it all away by announcing a 2% tax on petrol and diesel to compensate for the massive burden of Rs34,000 crore that he has to spend to write off farm loans of up to Rs2 lakh each. That shows the extent to which it is going to hurt everybody else in the state.
It would be naive to imagine that the BJP would let this opportunity pass. It has come back to Rahul with a vengeance, juxtaposing his challenge and Kumaraswamy’s ‘achievement’. “No takers for Rahul Gandhi’s #FuelChallenge, not even his government! This is what happens when you pretend to know and preach things that you have no idea about!!! “, a party tweet said.
Unfortunately, Rahul cannot hide behind the plea that it was Kumaraswamy’s Budget and, therefore, his party is not to be blamed because, within hours of the loan waiver announcement, the Congress president claimed credit for it while addressing a rally in his Amethi constituency. He justified the loan write-off on the ground that the richest people were getting their debt remitted.
The haggling between Kumaraswamy and the Congress over Budget-making had already caused much embarrassment to both sides, with the CM once giving vent to his frustration in public by apologising to the people of the state for his inability to deliver what he had promised to them because the Congress was not allowing him to do so.
It is, therefore, apparent that the write-off and the fuel price increase to fund it have been announced with the approval of Rahul’s party.
The BJP is set to make the most of the Congress predicament by launching an agitation against the hike in the price of petrol and diesel, which will surely pinch the pockets of the vast majority of people in the state.
The worst part of the solution that Kumaraswamy has chosen to bring relief to the farmers is that it is not going to address the basic issues, which will continue to dog the agricultural sector. An agitation against the Karnataka fuel price hike will not only help the BJP exploit the people’s frustration, but will also blunt Rahul’s ‘fuel challenge’ to Modi.