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West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee.

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said that her government has spent Rs 1,500 crore in the last three years to subsidise petrol and diesel prices in the state.

Her retort came a few hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a virtual interaction with chief ministers, flagged higher fuel prices in opposition-ruled states such as Maharashtra, Kerala and West Bengal, and asked the state governments to reduce VAT for the benefit of the common man.

“PM Narendra Modi has delivered a completely one-sided and misleading speech. Facts shared by him were wrong. We have been providing a subsidy of Re 1 on every litre of petrol and diesel for the last three years. We’ve spent Rs 1,500 crore on this,” Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat.

She claimed there was no scope for the chief ministers to speak at the meeting and hence, they could not counter the prime minister’s statement.

On Modi urging the states to slash taxes on petrol and diesel, the West Bengal chief minister said that her government has dues of Rs 97,000 crore with the Centre, and once half of the amount gets cleared, she would reduce the taxes.

“We have dues of Rs 97,000 crore with the Centre. The day we get half of the amount, the next day we will give Rs 3,000 crore petrol and diesel subsidy. I have no problem with subsidy but how will I run my government?” she said.

“It’s not correct to say that we have not given subsidy. We have waived taxes of all those in the transport business and spent Rs 1,000 crore on it,” she said.

The Trinamool Congress, in a series of tweets, slammed the Centre over the prime minister’s statement.

“It is our promise that if the Central Government clears our dues, Government of West Bengal will exempt all taxes from Petrol & Diesel for the next 5 years! ?97,807.91 Cr is due. @narendramodi ji, let’s see if you can deliver,” the Trinamool Congress tweeted.

“Mr. @narendramodi, it was your HEINOUS AGENDA to shame states today. What is the Centre doing to reduce the burden of people? What measures are being taken to curb the rising prices of essential commodities? DON’T BULLDOZE DEMOCRAZY. Take lessons from us!” it said.

On the prime minister showering accolades on states such as Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat for providing petrol and diesel subsidy of Rs 5,000 crore and Rs 3,000 crore respectively, Banerjee alleged that BJP-ruled states get good financial aid from the Centre whereas West Bengal receives very little financial assistance.

She alleged that opposition-ruled states are being discriminated against, and only money is being taken from them.

“We had asked the Centre for 50:50 sharing of fuel revenue but they didn’t agree and are taking 75 per cent of the revenue earned,” she said.

Banerjee claimed that the Narendra Modi government has earned at least Rs 17,31,242 crore from petrol and diesel only since 2014.

“Now, you are asking the states to take the responsibility to slash the taxes? You don’t talk about the debts of the state governments. Why don’t you tell people about that?” she said.

Banerjee said that her government, despite all the financial hurdles, has been paying salaries to its employees and pensions to retired people on time besides running several welfare schemes.

“It would have been better had the PM not spoken on fuel price hike in a COVID-19 review meeting; it was his agenda,” she said, reiterating her demand for a reduction in fuel prices.

The BJP, on the other hand, said the TMC government in West Bengal should first answer why it was not reducing taxes on fuel.

“If you compare the petrol prices between the opposition-ruled states such as West Bengal with the BJP-ruled states, the difference is nearly Rs 15-20 per litre,” BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh said.

“If TMC is so pro-poor, why can’t our chief minister emulate states such as Assam and UP and cut VAT on fuel? She should take a cue from the Centre and provide relief to the people. But, she won’t as the money accrued from such taxes are spent in organising fairs and giving donations to clubs,” he said.

The West Bengal government imposes 25 per cent VAT on petrol and 17 per cent on diesel.

The central government levies Rs 27.90 excise on every litre of petrol and Rs 21.80 on diesel.

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