New Delhi, (IANS)Targeting the government over rise in prices of essential commodities, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce a date by which the prices would come down.
In a brief speech at the Lok Sabha, Gandhi reminded the Prime Minster of his promises in the run-up to the 2014 general elections and said in the last two years Modi made “hollow promises” to the people.
The Congress Vice-President referred to Modi’s speech at an election rally in Himachal Pradesh in February 2014 wherein he had said, “Ma, bachche raat raat rote hain, aasoon pee ke sote hain” (mothers and children cry the whole night and sleep swallowing their tears).
“What a dialogue,” Gandhi exclaimed sarcastically, slamming Modi, who was not present in the house.
“I want to remind the Prime Minister of the promises he made that when the BJP government comes to power, it will bring down the prices,” Gandhi said.
“Modiji, jitne khokhle vaade karne hai kariye… Stand Up India, Make in India. Par is house ko ek tareekh de dijiye jab market mein daam kam ho jayenge (Modiji, make as many empty promises as you want… Stand Up India, Make in India. But please announce a date in this house when the prices will come down),” Gandhi said.
He also alleged that NDA’s flagship programmes like Make in India and Stand Up India had failed as they could not generate jobs for the youths.
Repeatedly directing his tirade against the Prime Minister, Gandhi referred to the BJP’s popular election slogan then — ‘Har Har Modi’ and said now the people are reaping its harvest by saying ‘Arhar Modi’ — a reference to growing prices of pulses, including Arhar dal.
“You had made a good speech then. But now that you are the Prime Minister, we want to ask you one question… why the prices have not come down,” Gandhi said.
Gandhi claimed that compared to 2014, prices of certain essential items have gone up by anything between 100 per cent and 300 per cent.
“There is a huge gap between the market price and the minimum support price,” something not seen during the Congress-led UPA rule, Gandhi said.
Further reminding the Prime Minister of his election speech in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 — when Modi had said he wanted to be a “chowkidar (guard)” for the country and not the Prime Minister, Gandhi said the task of safe-guarding interests of poor people now should be “left to the Congress”.
Gandhi lamented that today a huge quantity of pulses are being looted under Modi as the “guard”.
“During elections, Modiji had said ‘make me a chowkidar’ (guard). Now, there is a theft of dal under the very nose of the chowkidar,” Gandhi said.
“Now you are the Prime Minister… you have become a big man. Why should you be a chowkidar too? Leave that duty to us, the Congress party,” Gandhi said amid strong protests from the BJP members.
The Congress leader said in 2014, the price of tomatoes was Rs 18 a kg, which has shot up to Rs 55 in 2016. Urad and tur dals, priced around Rs 70 in February 2014, have now gone up to Rs 160 and Rs 180 this month.
He said there was a gap between the minimum support price of Rs 45 a kg given to the farmers for tur dal, and its price in the market at Rs 75 a kg. Now, the MSP has risen to Rs 50, but the price of the pulses have gone up to Rs 180 a kg, Gandhi said.
“So there is a gap of Rs 130 under the NDA government. Where is this Rs 100 going,” he wanted to know.
The Congress leader also took potshots at the Prime Minister and the NDA dispensation for “second birth day” celebrations (completion of two years of government in May) and wondered why even on such occasions the Prime Minister did not bother to say anything about rising prices.
Gandhi also charged the Modi government with being friendly towards corporates.
Stating that the government had waived off Rs 52,000 crore of the big business houses, he alleged such moves did not benefit the cause of the poor people, farmers and housewives.
The BJP fielded Hukumdev Narayan Yadav immediately after Gandhi’s speech and the lawmaker from Bihar denied the Congress leader’s allegation that the Modi government has been responsible for price rise.
“Contrary to allegations made by Rahul Gandhi, the Modi government has catered most for the welfare of the poor people. Opening of bank accounts under the Jan Dhan scheme for the rural people and cheap LPG made available to poor people only shows the government’s commitment to the poor,” Yadav said.
Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy also slammed the government for skyrocketing prices.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, defended the government’s performance at a “difficult stage” and recalled that the NDA regime had inherited double-digit inflation.
“We have been able to keep things under control despite two years of bad monsoon, which resulted in higher food inflation,” Jaitley said.