Pawar not trying to blame anyone: Congress

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. However, with Mr. Pawar referring to collective responsibility, the Congress appears to have decided to hold its fire for now for fear of exposing fissures within the UPA.

Paswan’s criticism

Gargi Parsai reports:

Lok Jan Shakti Party leader Ramvilas Paswan said on Monday that price rise was a collective responsibility of the Centre and State governments, but it was not appropriate for a Minister to say prices were going to rise. “If a Minister says prices will rise then people will hoard and prices will soar.”

He said his party would launch a “chakka jam” on January 28 in Patna against the Centre and the State for the rise in prices.Asked who the party held responsible for the surge in prices, Mr. Paswan said there was no difference between a Minister and the government.

“A Minister represents the government. The Centre’s policies and the non-action by State governments are responsible.”

To a question about the possibility of Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh joining his party, Mr. Paswan said the LJP was a small party belonging to weaker sections.

“What will a strongman do in our party? In any case, he cited health reasons for resigning from key posts and said he will remain in SP.”

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