Shifting the blame for the price rise on the Union Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mayawati on Wednesday demanded his removal from the post. Ms. Mayawati has threatened to boycott the meeting of Chief Ministers convened by the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh on January 27 for discussing price rise if Mr. Pawar is not ousted as Union Agriculture Minister by then.

“It would be in the interest of the poor and downtrodden people that Mr. Pawar is removed as Agriculture Minister,” Ms. Mayawati said. She assailed Mr. Pawar for having said that milk prices might go up.

“If no action against Mr. Pawar is taken by Dr. Singh it would prove that the Union Agriculture Minister has the Prime Minister’s backing in respect to giving “irresponsible statements”, Ms. Mayawati told reporters in a hastily convened press conference here on Wednesday.

Referring to Mr. Pawar’s reported statement on Wednesday on the impending milk crisis in north India and the subsequent rise in the prices of the commodity after that of sugar and rice, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said this was not for the first time the Union Agriculture Minister had given a irresponsible statement. She said the hoarders and black marketers would be emboldened by Mr. Pawar’s observation. Ms. Mayawati feared that following Mr. Pawar’s statement the milk prices would go.

Ms. Mayawati said even as the Prime Minister had convened a meeting of Chief Ministers for finding measures to control prices, the Union Agriculture Minister was making such statements, which would embolden hoarders and black marketers to continue with their nefarious trade.

While holding the UPA Government responsible for the increase in the prices of foodgrains and essential commodities, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said Mr. Pawar’s statements have further fuelled the price spiral. Ms. Mayawati said in U.P. stern directives have been issued to the officials for taking strict action against hoarders.

In fresh directives issued on Wednesday, the sub-divisional magistrates in all the 71 districts have been directed to conduct weekly surprise inspection of the markets for keeping a check on the prices.

Ms. Mayawati criticised the Maharashtra Government’s decision on making the knowledge of Marathi language and 15 years duration of residing in the state mandatory for giving permits for new taxis. Stating that the decision is politically motivated, the UP CM expressed the Bahujan Samaj Party’s opposition to the move.