New Delhi, 7 July-2014, PTI: Slamming the BJP government for spurt in prices of essential commodities during its 45-day rule, Opposition Congress on Monday took potshots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for riding to power on promise of controlling inflation yet doing nothing on it.
Congress slams BJP, says govt. promised inflation control and did nothing except price hikes
Speaking on the issue after his demand for suspension of Question Hour to discuss price rise was accepted by the ruling party, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the one-and-half-month rule of BJP government has seen all round rise in prices of vegetables and fruits.
Since coming to power, the BJP-led government has raised rail passenger fares and freight charges besides hiking petrol, diesel and LPG rates that have cascading impact on prices of other commodities, the Congress leader said.
Azad said when in 2012 the UPA government had raised rail fares before the railway budget, the then chief minister of Gujarat had written to the Prime Minister opposing such adjustments prior to presentation of the Rail Budget and had demanded its rollback.
“In two years what has changed” that the BJP government raised not just passenger fares but also freight days ahead of the Railway budget, he said, pointing out that fares and freight have been raised by a steep 14-16 percent.
BJP and Modi’s 6-month election campaign was centered around price rise and Congress and UPA leadership was criticised for being oblivious to the plight of poor, he said.
“If Congress did not know poverty and if BJP leaders had better knowledge, then why did they provide for back breaking prices rise in one-and-half-months,” he asked.
Azad demanded an immediate rollback in rail fares as well as the hike in diesel, petrol and LPG rates.
He said the UPA had initiated landmark measures like the MNREGA and Food Security Bill to help poor.
“Did we not spend money on infrastructure in 10 years,” he said, pointing to new airports that came up in Delhi, Mumbai and other places as well as roads and highways, schools and universities built in various parts of the country.
“Even during world economic crisis, we did not stop spending on infrastructure,” he said, adding the BJP rule has seen “chaumukhi mahangi (all round price rise).”
Earlier, soon after new members took oath and Chairman Hamid Ansari read out obituary references, members in the Opposition benches were up on their feet demanding discussion on price rise.
On being allowed by Ansari to speak, Azad said his party has given a notice for suspension of Question Hour and that a discussion on price rise be taken up.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government was open to discussion on the issue.
“We have absolutely no difficulty… you may start the discussion right now,” Jaitley said after which Ansari called Azad to initiate discussion on price rise and inflation.
BSP chief Mayawati took a jibe at BJP saying the party and its partners had promised that poverty, inflation and corruption would vanish as soon as it came to power, but the new government raised prices.
“Such assurances were given (during the election campaign)… but after coming to power it started a new tradition… Railways minister increased passenger fare and freight charges (before budget),” she said.
There were protests all over the country, but instead of rolling back the hikes government also raised prices of petrol and diesel, the BSP leader said.
Referring to government’s statements that hoarding in the backdrop of deficient rains was cause of price rise, Mayawati said BJP cannot stop hoarding as it is party of traders.
She said traders and business communities were engaged in hoarding and not the farmers.
She said “achhe din nahi aaye hain, mehenge din aaye hain (good days have not come, costly days have come)” in reference to the BJP’s election slogan.
Referring to the rail fare and freight hike, Derek O’Brien (TMC) said the “trainee” Railways Minister has not read the Vision 2020 document. He said the hike will affect the poor.
“Why give them the bitter pill? (Government) should have waited for the (rail) budget,” he said, adding increasing freight charges is not the solution.
He said inclusion of onion and potato in the list of essential commodities “seems a good idea”, but the government was yet to define “hoarding”. He also alleged that BJP came to power on back of a multi-billion dollar advertisement campaign.
Naresh Agrawal (SP) said his party had decided to give six months to the new government to show results, but was forced to criticise it quite early.
He wanted to know what action the government was going to take to deal with hoarding. He said the government should have waited till the Rail budget before hiking rates.
The SP leader asked the government to take tough decisions to bring down prices.
Sharad Yadav (JD-U) pointed out that prices of not only vegetables and food grains have gone up, but prices of almost every thing like cement and electronic items have gone up.
He said middlemen were responsible for inflation as farmers were selling their produce at low rates.
Accusing BJP government of not fulfilling promises to curb inflation, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) disagreed with BJP leaders’ contention that they inherited a legacy of steep prices and said it was not a relay race for which they were handed over the baton.
Taking potshots at the Prime Minister, he said Modi who is known for “one way traffic of tweets” had earlier in a tweet termed hike in rail fares by UPA government before Railway Budget as “against the parliamentary traditions.”
He demanded a three-pronged action plan to check immediate curb on price rise — an immediate ban on future trading of 14 essential commodities, release of buffer stock of foodgrains beyond stock norms in open market on BPL prices and fixing of petrol prices on the basis on import costs and cost of production.
He said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who was Leader of the Opposition in the House earlier and Sharad Pawar who was Food Minister had earlier agreed that there was a need to ban futures trading, which was introduced by an amendment in Essential Commodities Act during previous NDA regime, to check de-hoarding.
He said a UN report also indicated that 70 percent of the global hike in essential commodities was due to speculative trade of essential items.
He also termed “under-recovery” of petroleum prices as a hoax saying that India imported 98 per cent crude oil which was processed as LPG, diesel and petrol in refineries and the prices should have been fixed keeping in account import cost and cost of production.
“The government is misleading people of India saying that there is under-recovery in petroleum product prices and losses incurred were to the tune of lakhs of crores. Why compare it with global prices. How come all the oil companies are running into profit,” he said.
He also took a dig at the government saying PM himself had tweeted when Tendulkar Committee had fixed poverty line as Rs 32 a day, saying it was ridiculous that Rangarajan Committee has fixed it at Rs 47 a day.
He said even by that yardstick, India’s one-third population was living below poverty line and government should take immediate measures to check it.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (BJP) said the government was committed to check prise rise and unlike in the past, it at once accepted the demand for discussion on it.
Terming the previous UPA government as a government of corruption, scams and unchecked inflation, he said the NDA government has inherited a legacy of price rise and the nation was debt ridden to the extent that each newborn child inherited a debt of Rs 25,000.
Indicating to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was sitting in the opposition benches, Naqvi said the previous PM wanted to do a lot but “there were so many super PMs” that he could not do anything.
This drew angry protests by members including former Commerce and Industries Minister Anand Sharma.
Naqvi said “good days” were bound to come with a score of measures being initiated by the new government and “bad days” were in store for power brokers, black-marketeers and hoarders.