Shimla: Congress leader and former Union Minister Virbhadra Singh on Monday urged party president Sonia Gandhi to review the central government's recent decisions to hike the price of diesel by Rs.5 a litre and cap supply of subsidised domestic LPG cylinders.

He requested respite for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Himachal Pradesh, it being a special category state.

In a missive to Gandhi, five-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh said roads were the only means of communication in the hill state.

"The hike in the diesel price had become unavoidable due to consistent rise in international oil prices, but it would have a spiralling effect on prices of all commodities and transport facilities," said Virbhadra Singh, who has been spearheading the party's campaign ahead of the assembly polls in the state, slated to be held in November.

He demanded a cut on the diesel price hike by allowing special subsidy on it to the hill state.

The septuagenarian leader also demanded that the number of subsidised LPG cylinders be increased to 12 from six in a year.

He also asked the state government to lower state taxes. "The state is charging a higher tax of 20 percent on diesel," he said.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has already clarified that the VAT on diesel imposed by the state is quite low.

"We are charging 8.7 percent VAT on diesel, which is the lowest in the country. Some of the states are charging VAT up to 22.75 percent. It can't be lowered further," he told reporters in Shimla on Sunday.

He said capping on LPG cylinders would also have a negative impact on environment as people in villages might prefer to use fuel wood for cooking.

The state BJP unit has already called a state-wide shutdown Sep 20. Though elections to the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly are due in December, they are likely to be held in November.


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