With the petrol price spiked up, fifth time since January, at the time when inflation is at a scorching 12.21 percent robbing hoi polloi of their basic needs, the Congress-led government has invited political backlash. Already fighting with battered image in the wake of episodic corruption and subsequently plunging into firelines of the Opposition, the ruling dispensation has this time faced protest from its allies as the Trinamool has fulminated the Centre’s move to hike petrol price by Rs 1.82 per litre. In a bid to keep coalition intact, the Central government is trying to mollify Mamata Banerjee, who threatened to pull out of the government if there was no roll back on price hike. The Centre is said to be ready to give economic package to West Bengal. If it happens, it would be unjust as backdoor dealing does not augur well for a healthy democracy. This is not a proper channel for getting economic package, so the Centre and Mamata Banerjee should come clear that no such deal is going to be inked, otherwise message will be spelt out that the Central establishment is working under pressure from allies. It is not mere coincidence that even as the miffed MPs of the Trinamool would be meeting with the PM in Delhi, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will be having tete-a-tete with Mamata Banerjee in the context of giving economic package to West Bengal. As the pricing of petroleum is very sensitive segment of the economy, there should be no elbow-room for any shady deal regarding it. Therefore, mere giving assurance of no backroom agreement in the context of petrol price wouldn’t be enough. It is pertinent, why has the government to clarify its stand in this regard. There is no taker of government’s assurance that the price of petrol would not be cranked up in future. It would not be wise if the government tinkers petrol price to serve its political interests.

In the backdrop of recent assembly election in many states, the Centre can give assurance of not spiraling up the petroleum price as it cannot afford to alienate people. It is deeply etched in people’s minds that before assembly polls in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu Assam and other states, the government put the petrol price hike on the hold; but after the results of elections were declared, the price was increased. If Mamata Banerjee wants economic package in quid pro quo curbing her anger over the government’s move, the ruling establishment itself is accountable for it as the Centre is reported to be playing politics with petrol price. Whenever the government escalates petrol price, it does not only put its rationale by citing the losses of oil companies but also convince people that oil companies take this decision on their own. The Mamata government may need economic package for removing the financial bottlenecks of the state, but her approach to get the Centre’s aid under the garb of protest over price hike of petrol is no less than a politics of backdoor deal.