Oil Strikes

NEW DELHI, June 6, 2006 (AFP) – A sharp hike in Indian fuel prices sparked uproar against the government Tuesday as both its communist allies and the main opposition Hindu nationalist party vowed nationwide protests.

Even senior members of the ruling Congress party demanded the rollback of the rise aimed at bringing fuel prices closer in line with surging world oil prices and curbing losses at state-owned oil companies.

“The Congress opposes the hike in petroleum prices and wants the excessive increase to be reduced in the interest of the common man,” party spokesman Rajiv Shukla said. He did not say whether the party would stage demonstrations.

The protests began after the cabinet gave oil firms approval to raise fuel prices from midnight Monday.

The price of gasoline rose by nine percent to 47.49 rupees (1.03 dollars) a litre in the capital New Delhi while diesel cost 6.5 percent more at 32.45 rupees.

The Congress-led government left prices of kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas used for cooking unchanged, keen not to alienate its poor supporters.

Oil Minister Murli Deora expressed hope that people “will understand the compulsions under which the decision was taken.”

The gov