Central Hall – Ignorance is Bliss!

In politics, politicians often pretend to be blissfully ignorant of their past deeds and often find themselves in awkward or embarrassing situations as a result. Often Ignorance is Bliss as it helps gloss over one’s own follies.

In past few days, there were two such instances that happened in Maharashtra. In the first Maharashtra Revenue Minister and MPCC president Vijay alias Balasaheb Thorat slammed the Center for hiking Excise Duty rates on petrol and diesel by Rs 3. Little did he realize or is blissfully unaware that it was his own Congress, Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in its annual state budget presented on March 6, barely a week ago, had proposed to hike Value Added Tax (VAT) on petrol and diesel by Rs 1.

Second instance is the Tree Authority of the Shiv Sena ruled Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) giving approval for cutting of 162 trees and transplantation of 346 trees that come in the path of Metro 2A route between Dahisar in north-west Mumbai and Mandale in Mankhurd, in Eastern Mumbai. It may be recalled that among the many stay orders issued after assuming charge as the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had announced a stay on the construction work of Metro 3 car shed depot in Aarey Milk Colony and had vowed not to allow even a leaf to be plucked. Predictably it has raised the hackles of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its state vice president Dr Kirit Somaiya.

Strangely and expectedly enough politicians tend to conveniently tend to forget or are blissfully ignorant about it, depending upon which way it politically suits them to do so.

It is an altogether different matter that almost all the states have opposed the move to bring petrol, diesel and other petroleum products under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime. States have opposed the idea on the grounds that it is their major source of revenue income and helps the government pay its oil bills. Mumbai has the highest VAT rate of 39.12 percent on petrol and Telangana has the highest VAT rate of 26 percent on diesel in the country.

Politics over Oil has always been an messy affair in India as it has often been used to topple rival governments. Most would have forgotten the 2004 resignation of India’s External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh over his alleged involvement in the UN Oil for Food program that allowed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to trade oil for essential food items. The program started in 1995 by the Bill Clinton administration under the auspices of the UN was dissolved in 2003, before being finally terminated in 2010.

The Iraq Oil for Food scandal then had caught world capitals, governments and even a former UN Secretary General in a swirl of allegations of corruption, bribery and fraudulently helping the Iraqi dictator of undermining the UN program itself.

Expectedly enough governments world over had junked the Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) report of October 27, 2005, headed by Paul Volcker on manipulation of the UN program. Even the courts dismissed the petitions over it. As far as Indian involvement was concerned it was alleged to have got to do with trade-off for 10,00,000 barrels of oil, about 1,60,000 . No one really knows what happened in regards to the investigations in India, after Natwar Singh resigned over the issue in 2004.

Politics and oil have always been a messy affair in India and more so kickbacks that accrue out of such deals. It often serves to be politically blissfully ignorant about the past as it helps avoiding uncomfortable past.

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