Bowing to opposition pressure, Delhi government on Monday withdrew a four per cent VAT on cooking gas giving a Rs 12-13 relief to consumers though it did not roll back the withdrawal of Rs 40 subsidy for LPG cylinders.
The government also withdrew the five per cent VAT on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) besides bringing back the VAT for tea, coffee and cocoa to five per cent from the proposed 12.5 per cent. The measures were announced by Finance Minister A K Walia in Delhi Assembly during his reply to discussions on the budget presented on March 22.
With the withdrawal of four per cent VAT on cooking gas, the price of an LPG cylinder will come down by Rs 12-13. After the withdrawal of Rs 40 subsidy, an LPG cylinder used to cost Rs 322.80. Walia's budget proposals to increase VAT on several items had triggered protests from opposition BJP as well as from ruling Congress MLAs.
Earlier in the day, high drama was witnessed in the Delhi Assembly when BJP MLAs were removed from the House after they trooped to the Well and resorted to slogan shouting demanding roll back of withdrawal of subsidy on cooking gas and increase in VAT on several items.
Minutes after the House assembled, Leader of Opposition V K Malhotra raised the issue of price rise and said several MCD councillors were injured during a protest near the Assembly with police resorting to the use of water cannon and demanded a special discussion on the issue. Soon all the BJP MLAs were on their feet displaying posters and demanded immediate withdrawal of increase in VAT on several items and roll back of subsidy withdrawal on cooking gas.
As repeated appeals by Speaker Yoganand Shastri fell on deaf ears, he adjourned the House for 15 minutes. When the House met again after 15 minutes, all BJP MLAs trooped to the well and again started shouting anti-government slogans.
The Speaker tried to pacify them but the unrelenting BJP MLAs continued the protest following which the Speaker asked the marshals to remove senior MLAs H S Balli, Karan Singh Tanwar, Ravindra Bansal, Subhash Sachdeva and Harsh Vardhan from the House. After removal of these members, the remaining BJP MLAs continued their sloganeering after which Shastri named the BJP MLAs one by one asking them to go out of the House and asked the marshals to ensure that they go out of the House.
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said her government readjusted some of the budget proposals to provide relief to the common people as it "bows" to the public opinion.
She said the decision to remove the VAT component from cooking gas and CNG was taken to benefit the common man.
"Our's is a sensitive government. We would like to bow to the public opinion. We have taken the decision to provide relief to the common man," Dikshit told PTI immediately after the budget was passed in the Assembly. "There was an impression that food prices may escalate due to imposition of VAT on CNG. So we have decided to withdraw it as well," she said.
Asked whether the estimated loss of Rs 200 crore revenue on account of the adjustments would impact financial position of the government, she said government will manage it. "We will manage it. Our first priority is to address the concerns of the people of the city," she said.
Finance Minister A K Walia, replying to the budget discussion in the assembly, today announced withdrawal of four per cent Value Added Tax on cooking gas which will bring down the prices of a cylinder by Rs 13 and removed the VAT on CNG, the fuel used in public transports.
VAT on several other products like tea and coffee was also slashed today. In his budget speech on March 22, Walia had the withdrawn Rs 40 subsidy on cooking gas and levied five per cent VAT on CNG. The Government did not reverse its decision to withdraw subsidy on LPG but decided to remove the four per cent VAT on it. PTI