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BJP seeks inquiry into ‘potato crisis’

- Party asks why merchants control prices

Guwahati, July 18: The Assam unit of the BJP today demanded an inquiry into why only 19 traders were controlling the business of potatoes and onions in the state, resulting in frequent increase in the prices of the two commodities.

“The state government has not set up a single cold storage in Guwahati where as only 19 traders under the banner of Potato and Onion Merchants’ Association is controlling the business of the two commodities for long. The state government has no control over the supply of the two commodities and as a result the prices go up based on the wishes of the traders,” the party vice-president Siddhartha Bhattacharjee said here.

The party sought an inquiry if the traders were running a syndicate of the two items.

The demand comes days after an FIR was lodged against BJP leader and businessman Vijay Kumar Gupta for allegedly making a statement on July 15 that the state had stocks of potatoes for one day.

The state food and civil supplies minister, Nazrul Islam, had directed the Kamrup (metro) district administration to lodge the FIR alleging that Gupta’s statement had triggered panic about increase in prices of potatoes.

Gupta, however, denied the allegation and said he would file a defamation case against the minister.

The controversy started following reports that truckloads of potatoes coming from Bengal were stranded on the Assam-Bengal checkgates for sales tax inspection. The trucks, however, started moving towards Assam following the state government’s intervention.

The minister on Tuesday said Gupta had provided misleading information to reporters about stocks of potatoes where as there were 40,000 metric tonnes of potatoes in stocks.

Gupta today challenged the minister and dared him to publish a white paper on how potatoes and onions coming from outside the state were allocated to traders by the Potato and Onion Merchants’ Association.

The BJP said the traders were taking advantage of the ongoing political crisis within the Congress and increasing prices.

“The state machinery is almost non-functional because of the internal crisis in the ruling Congress. Traders are taking this advantage,” Bhattacharjee said.