The Nationalist Congress Party, a constituent of the United Progressive Alliance, on Wednesday attacked Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi for blaming price rise on coalition compulsions, and later went into damage control mode.
NCP general secretary and spokesman D.P. Tripathi first called a press conference and said Mr. Gandhi's comments were “unfortunate” and “arrogant.”
Claiming that his remarks were not based on facts, Mr. Tripathi said, “the Congress is the principal party in the UPA and any statement of the leader of the party should reflect humility, and not arrogance.”
No single Minister, including Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar, could be held responsible for price rise as “it is the collective responsibility” of the government. “Coalition is the reality of Indian politics. The era of single party rule is over.”
Hours after the NCP leader's press conference, news agencies reported Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel as having said in Mumbai that Mr. Tripathi's remarks were his “personal views.”
Mr. Patel reportedly stated that Mr. Gandhi did not say anything about Mr. Pawar and there was no point in distorting his statement. He said the NCP was with the UPA and would remain with it.
Commenting on the sparring between the UPA partners, the BJP said Atal Bihari Vajpayee also led a coalition government but prices were kept well under control. “There is lack of leadership in UPA-II and that is seen in their failure to control prices of essential goods for over 22 months,” said party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman.
That the two Ministries (Food and Consumer Affairs) which could raise a conflict of interest were being held by one and the same person (Mr. Pawar) itself showed lack of leadership in the UPA, she said. “The Prime Minister holding meetings to keep only giving predictions about fluctuation [of inflation rate] betrays their lack of will to take effective action.”