CWC to form committee to assess state poll results, inflation

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New Delhi, May 31 : The Congress Working Committee, the highest decision-making body of the Congress party, on Saturday announced that it would soon be forming a small committee, who would be tasked with the responsibility of assessing the factors responsible for the party's poor and less than credible results in recent elections in various states.

Addressing reporters after the meeting that lasted several hours, Congress leaders Janardhan Dwivedi and M.Veerappa Moily acknowledged that the performance of the party had been well below par, and that there was an urgent need to take stock of the reasons behind it.

Both were referring to the Congress party's defeat in the recent Karnataka State Assembly elections, which paved the way for the formation of the first BJP Government in South India, and to the electoral losses in states like Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and others.

These electoral losses have led the opposition BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to confidently predict their return to power through the 2009 general elections.

Dwivedi and Moily said that the committee appointed would be asked to submit its report within a fortnight, at which point a fresh assessment would be undertaken.

Asked whether a discussion had taken place on the alarming rise in inflation and reported moves that the Government was seriously thinking of hiking fuel prices, Dwivedi admitted that it was a matter of concern that inflation was currently pegged at 8.1 percent, but this development was because of extraneous factors not in control of the party or the UPA Government. He said that the need of the hour was for global prices to stabilize, and such stability would automatically have an impact in India.

As far as the fuel and LPG price hike was concerned, both reiterated that it has been put off at least until next week.

They confirmed that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi had discussed the Rs.225, 040 crore revenue loss being experienced by oil PSUs in the face of prices of petrol, diesel, LPG and kerosene not being raised and duty cuts this fiscal on three occasions.

"Don't expect any action this week," an oil aide said.

The inflation rate has climbed up to a 45-month high of 8.1 per cent. Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who has been vehemently opposing parting with any revenues by way of cut in customs and excise duty, is also believed to be against any hike in fuel prices, as it would add to inflation.

"It appears, treatment may be finalised after the patient is dead," said an industry official referring to precarious situation of cash-strapped fuel retailers.

BPCL and HPCL would run out of cash to even import crude oil in July while IOC can sustain imports till September. They lose Rs.16.34 a liter on petrol, Rs.23.49 per liter on diesel, Rs.305.90 per LPG cylinder and Rs.28.72 per liter on kerosene.

The state-run firms have already decided not to import any fuel even though domestic production of diesel was insufficient to meet a 20-22 per cent growth in consumption. If the companies run out of cash to import crude, fuel supplies would drastically fall.

ANI

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