Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday backed the government’s decision to hike fuel prices as she congratulated Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for striking a “fine and delicate balancing act” in his 2010-11 budget.
“We have many essential social obligations and to meet them it is necessary to raise resources,” she told the Congress Parliamentary Party, but made it clear that the rise in food prices was a serious concern for the UPA government.
By backing Mukherjee’s budgetary proposals, Sonia sent across a clear message to its allies — DMK and Trinamool Congress — and the Opposition that there would be no immediate rollback of the fuel price hike.
The meeting with party MPs came a day after Mukherjee briefed them about the salient features of the budget to counter the “Opposition propaganda”.
The Opposition and parties supporting the Congress-led UPA from outside had closed ranks on the issue and walked out of the Lok Sabha during Mukherjee’s budget speech in protest against the hike.
Sonia was critical of such protests. “The manner in which the Opposition sought to disrupt the presentation of the budget is not in keeping with the democratic norms and traditions that we cherish,” she said.
She also reminded the BJP about her party’s cooperation with the NDA government. “If they look back, they will recall the constructive cooperation extended to the NDA in the six years we were sitting on their benches in the Opposition.”
Sonia said addressing food prices continued to be the UPA’s priority However, she lauded the government’s efforts to control food inflation. “We have responded... with all the resources at our command. Despite the fact that this was a crisis born of circumstances outside our control, the government has put in place proactive policies to mitigate the hardships of the people.”