Anita Joshua

NEW DELHI: A day after Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar raised the bogey of collective responsibility of the Cabinet, including the Prime Minister, for price rise, the Congress on Monday toned down its hitherto nuanced criticism of the Minister and said he was not apportioning blame but stating a constitutional position.

Fielding questions on the issue a day after Mr. Pawar made the remarks in response to questions on the veiled criticism from Congress quarters over his handling of the situation in the face of runaway prices, Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed refused to find fault with the Minister’s bid to ward off the blame by putting it on all his ministerial colleagues and the Prime Minister.“Mr. Pawar is not trying to blame anyone. He is stating the constitutional provision of collective responsibility of the Cabinet. The Congress also wants prices to be addressed collectively by the Centre and the States,” Mr. Ahmed said.Asked whether the Congress held Mr. Pawar solely responsible for the rising prices, Mr. Ahmed remained non-committal.

To a query whether the party agreed with Mr. Pawar’s contention that the United Progressive Alliance government was responsible for the spiralling prices, he said, “Why don’t you talk about the responsibility of State governments who have to check black-marketing and hoarding?”Over the past few days, the Congress has been mounting pressure on Mr. Pawar in an attempt to distance the party from the criticism over unrelenting prices.