New Delhi, July 7: Finance minister Arun Jaitley today passed the price-rise buck to the previous government, prompting the dissatisfied Opposition to walk out of the Rajya Sabha after ridiculing the BJP’s pre-election promise of “good days” ahead.
In the Lok Sabha, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan did not allow an adjournment motion seeking a discussion on escalating prices. The Speaker said she was ready for a discussion under Rule 193, which does not entail voting, but the Congress refused. Repeated adjournments followed, as the budget session got off to a turbulent start.
Jaitley, who was replying to a discussion on price rise, said the NDA government had taken tough decisions, including a hike in train freight rates and passenger fares that the previous government had put on hold.
He accused the UPA government of not increasing the storage capacity for food grains, a key factor for price rise.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leader of Opposition in the upper House, where the NDA is in a minority, had initiated the impromptu discussion after Jaitley agreed to a demand for one by Opposition members.
Azad said the prices of essential commodities have been rising over the past one-and-a-half months and blamed the government for not being able to check the escalation. In Delhi, 1kg of onion is now selling at Rs 35 and potato at Rs 25 a kilo.
Congress leader Pramod Tiwary said the rise in diesel prices and train fare rates had contributed to the increase in costs as he reminded the BJP about its pre-poll assurance of good days ahead.
Trinamul Congress leader Derek O’Brien criticised the government for increasing railway fares by bypassing Parliament, saying the government should have waited till the budget session.
The CPM’s Sitaram Yechury said the government should ban future trading in essential commodities and release grains rotting in godowns.
Jaitley said there was no need to panic. On the hike in train fares, he said the UPA government had decided on increasing passenger fares and freight charges by 14 per cent and 6.4 per cent from the first week of May, and the railway board had even issued a notification.
But then minister Mallikarjun Kharge left it to the next government to implement the decisions, Jaitley said, adding the railways were losing about Rs 30,000 crore a year in passenger fares. “The UPA government did not take tough decisions…. To run railway, this decision was necessary,” the minister added.
Jaitley said his government had taken a number of steps to control price rise. The government has asked states to ensure minimum stock holding of essential commodities while the minimum export price of onion has been increased from $300 to $500 per tonne. Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the government was planning to set up storage facilities in every district.
The government’s response couldn’t satisfy the Opposition leaders. “The BJP has always highlighted price rise when we were in power and we are taking the same actions as this government. We are not happy with the reply. We are walking out,” Congress veteran Azad said.
Members of the CPM, Trinamul, BSP, SP and the BJD also walked out.