New Delhi, Feb 25 (Calcutta Tube) The government has ‘run out of ideas’ on controlling the spiralling prices of essential commodities and is ‘only looking for alibis’ to cover up for its failures, main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said Thursday.
‘Has this government run out of ideas on how to control prices,’ Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley asked while initiating a short duration discussion on the subject in the Rajya Sabha and then replied: ‘Obviously it has. The government is only looking for alibis.’
‘Could the government not anticipate the supply-side shortfall,’ he wondered, adding: ‘Today, we are facing a situation where the government’s inability to control inflation has become an indirect tax on the consumer.’
‘Dal prices are competing with Sachin Tendulkar,’ he said amid much laughter, referring to the batting maestro’s world record 200 unbeaten runs against South Africa in the second one-day international at Gwalior that India won Wednesday.
‘The single largest failure of the government is the mismanagement of food prices. The government must act, otherwise it must perish because the average citizen is being driven to the wall,’ Jaitley maintained.
Thursday’s was the first full session of the Rajya Sabha since the budget session of parliament commenced Monday. The first day was devoted to President Pratibha Patil’s address to a joint session of the two houses.
Opposition protests over the price led to Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s sessions being adjourned for the day as the BJP led the opposition in demanding a discussion on the issue under a rule that requires voting and the government refusing to agree to this. On Wednesday evening, the BJP agreed to a short duration discussion in both houses that does not require a vote.
Disagreeing with the government’s contention that prices of essential commodities had gone up due to the drought-induced production shortfall, Jaitley said: ‘We faced a similar situation (when a BJP-led coalition was in power) in 2002 when there was a production shortfall of 40 million tonnes. We offloaded enough stocks to prevent a price rise. This time, the shortfall is only 18 million tonnes. The government says it has enough stocks. Why were these not released in the market?’
He also criticised the government’s attempts to shift the blame for rising prices to the state governments.
‘Eighty-three percent of the raids that have been conducted to prevent hoarding (of essential commodities) have been in non-UPA (United Progressive Alliance) states. Only 17 percent of the raids have been conducted in states where the UPA is in power,’ Jaitley maintained.
He also said the government must consider drawing up a single price index to present a truer picture of inflation.
‘We have a wholesale price index and a consumer price index and there is a glaring mismatch between the two. We need a single price index to give a true picture of where inflation truly stands,’ he contended.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is the leader of the house in the Rajya Sabha, was present throughout Jaitley’s 40-minute speech. He left soon after it concluded.