Alphons stokes row over pe­tro­leum prices, draws sharp crit­i­cism

Oman Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

T HI RUVANANTHAPURAM: Bu­reau­crat-turned-Union Min­is­ter K J Alphons on Saturday yet again stoked a con­tro­versy when he said that peo­ple who own bikes and cars are not starv­ing and can af­ford to pay higher prices for fuel, re­marks that drew sharp crit­i­cism from po­lit­i­cal ri­vals.

His com­ments com­ing at a time when fuel prices are at a three-year high when in­ter­na­tional crude prices have crashed were de­scribed by op­po­si­tion par­ties as in­sen­si­tive to the com­mon man’s prob­lems.

“So we are go­ing to tax peo­ple who can af­ford to pay. Some­body who has a car, bike; cer­tainly he is not starv­ing. Some­body who can af­ford to pay, has to pay. 67 per cent of the peo­ple in the coun­try do not have toi­lets, new homes have to be built and for all such things lakhs and crores of money is re­quired and hence this money is raised by hik­ing the price of fuel” he said, while speak­ing to re­porters at the state party head­quar­ter here.

This was his first visit there af­ter be­ing sworn in as Union Min­is­ter and to make amends, the en­tire state lead­er­ship and top lead­ers were present to re­ceive him and payasam (kheer) was served to all.

The state unit of the BJP had come un­der se­vere crit­i­cism as on the day Alphons was sworn in, the state party head­quar­ters wore a de­serted look and the only no­tice­able cel­e­bra­tions was only at his home town in Kan­ji­ra­pally in Kot­tayam dis­trict.

As his re­marks came un­der at­tack, Alphons who had a re­cently stirred the hor­net’s nest by mak­ing con­tra­dic­tory re­marks on beef, sought to jus­tify his state­ment on the pe­tro­leum prices.

“Prime Min­is­ter has a huge dream for the poor of In­dia. What is that dream? It is very sim­ple. 30 per cent of In­di­ans go to bed with­out a full meal a day,” he said.

Congress leader and for­mer pe­tro­leum min­is­ter Veer­appa Moily at­tacked Alphons say­ing it was an atro­cious state­ment. “This is how bu­reau­crats, who come to pol­i­tics, have no un­der­stand­ing of peo­ple’s prob­lems. Many of the min­is­ters in Modi’s govern­ment are like this.”

He said dur­ing the UPA govern­ment, any of the pe­tro­leum min­is­ter they had de­cided to pass on the ben­e­fit of low crude prices to con­sumers. “Anti-in­cum­bency has set in against the govern­ment,” he said.

TRS spokesman Bhanuprasad de­scribed Alphons’ state­ment as shock­ing. The govern­ment is still fleec­ing peo­ple when crude prices have come down, he said.

An­other Congress spokesper­son, Bra­jesh Kalappa said the min­is­ter’s com­ments have added pain to peo­ple at a time when they have lost jobs and business is fall­ing. “Just be­cause some­body has a bike or a car can you say they have a life of lux­ury? This kind of state­ment is shock­ing.”

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