New Delhi, July 4: The Congress today slammed the Centre for linking food inflation to increased incomes and changing diets and asked if it intended to scrap its predecessor’s welfare schemes that had raised poor families’ purchasing power.
Ironically, Congress ministers used to cite similar reasons for the rising prices. But spokesperson Randeep Surjewala accused the government of “insulting” the people and said it was a matter of satisfaction and pride that incomes were rising.
“Is the Modi government opposed to the rising incomes and better dietary habits of our people?” he asked.
The issue stemmed from the agenda paper prepared by the Union consumer affairs ministry for today’s conference of state ministers and secretaries of consumer affairs, food and public distribution.
“Food inflation is caused by both demand and supply factors,” it said. “On demand side, the important factors that have contributed to inflation are government’s increased public expenditure like MNREGA, rising per capita income, population growth and changing dietary pattern.”
Surjewala targeted this paragraph. “Has the Modi government come to power only to help business in the garb of strengthening the economy and (does it) plan to discard all the welfare schemes?” he asked.
“Is it against a qualitative improvement in the food habits of our population? Is the Modi government ready to accept the demand by Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje for scrapping the MNREGA?”
When he was Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh too had told Parliament that the rise in rural populations’ purchasing potential — which he attributed to his government’s welfare schemes — had raised demand and pushed up prices.
Surjewala spewed rhetoric: “We are proud that the 10-year rule by the UPA led to all-round prosperity, higher rural wages and better dietary standards.”
Now that the Modi government too appears to have accepted that development, at least by implication, the Congress had the option of focusing on claiming credit for its good work. Instead, it chose to attack the government’s economic logic that rising incomes were raising prices.
Opposition politics has its own dynamics, though, and the BJP too had never accepted that economic logic in the past. Its spokespersons and Modi himself had taunted the “economist PM” for offering this argument.
Surjewala today cited information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar’s remark that inflation control was not a switch-on-switch-off job to ask the BJP when it had made “this earthshaking discovery — after May 26?”
Describing the argument as a “crude joke” he said: “All the initiatives taken by the Modi government (have been) copied from the previous regime.”
He cited the “copied” decisions: raising the onion export price, deregistering fruits and vegetables from the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act, restricting the stock limit and directing the states to act against hoarders.
“Where are the new ideas?” he asked.
The Congress also argued that the government’s vaunted efforts to control inflation had been negated by the decision to increase the prices of petrol, diesel, LPG and sugar and hike railway fares.
Surjewala mocked the BJP’s poll slogan, saying: “Modi sarkar, layi mehngai aur hahakar (the Modi government has brought inflation and cries of pain).”
The Andhra Pradesh
government has appointed Parakala Prabhakar,
husband of Union minister of state for commerce
Nirmala Sitharaman, as an adviser (communications), giving him the rank of a cabinet minister. Prabhakar used to be in the Congress before shifting to the BJP. He later joined the Praja Rajyam Party floated by Chiranjeevi but left it in 2009 over differences with the Telugu actor.