Party alleges corruption, mismanagement by Congress and plans to launch stir

Putting up a show of strength on the issue of rising food prices, particularly those of onions, four senior Delhi BJP leaders came together on Sunday to denounce the manner in which Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, while absolving herself of any blame, had held the media, neighbouring States and low production responsible for the crisis. The party has also decided to launch an agitation on the issue.

Flanked by Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly V. K. Malhotra, Delhi BJP president Vijay Goel and former State unit chief Vijender Gupta, party’s chief ministerial candidate Harsh Vardhan said that if voted to power he would set up a mechanism to constantly monitor the prices of all commodities.

“As a doctor I believe that prevention is better than cure. If voted to power, I will set in place infrastructure to monitor food prices constantly. This will be done by professionals who would alert me whenever there is abnormal upward movement in the prices of an essential item. I will take steps even before the emergency occurs,” he assured.

Dr. Vardhan said the BJP, if elected to power, will form a standing “Food Prices Commission” to constantly monitor the mandis (wholesale markets). “This body will comprise experts from the consumer movement, agriculturists, agriculture statisticians and former administrators. It will be headed by a renowned expert and will report directly to the Chief Minister.”

He added that 200 per cent increase in onion prices over the past week only showed how the residents have been impacted by soaring prices of all commodities under the Congress rule. “The Government is sitting idle and the people are being looted,” Dr. Vardhan charged.

Declaring that runaway food inflation affects food security, Dr. Vardhan recalled the words of Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen and said: “Reaching affordable and plentiful food is a government’s prime duty. In a democracy it will have to pay heavily if it fails on this count.”

However, he insisted that in Delhi’s case, “an insensitive government headed by Ms. Dikshit believes only in episodic intervention.”

On the Delhi Government’s attempts to buy onions directly from production centres in other States, he said the action has come late and the benefit will only be temporary. “After a while the hoarders, who enjoy immunity under the Congress rule, will bounce back.”

Dr. Vardhan wondered why the crisis took place at all when according to the available data the production of onion in this fiscal has been more than its consumption. “This year 163.09 lakh tonnes onion was produced in the country whereas its consumption was only 144.96 lakh tonnes. Next year the production of onion is likely to be 179.399 lakh tonnes whereas the consumption would be 151.77 lakh tonnes. In such a situation the unprecedented rise in the price of onion is the result of wrong policies of the Government, hoarding and the long line of middlemen.”

Dr. Vardhan also questioned what the UPA Government at the Centre has been doing since August when statistics on wholesale price inflation had indicated a 6.1 per cent rise.

Why didn’t Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Consumer and Food Distribution Minister K.V. Thomas take steps when by October it was clear that the rise in vegetable prices was between 77 per cent and 100 cent, he asked.

Accusing the Congress of colluding with the hoarders and the government of protecting them, Dr. Vardhan asked: “How many hoarders have been arrested in Delhi since the onion crisis began?” And in the same breath, he replied: “Zero”.

The BJP leader said even Ms. Dikshit did not act on time to prevent hoarding. “They came up with weak excuses after onion prices began to climb. What an absurd, non-performing government we have.”

Mr Goel said he has directed all the district presidents of the BJP in Delhi to launch agitations in their respective areas to protest against the rise in food prices.

Prof. Malhotra said the corrupt and negligent Sheila Dikshit government had only made the life of Delhi’s citizens more difficult.

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