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Scent of a scam: Oppn

The Opposition and some of the backers of the ruling coalition came together on Thursday to launch an all-out offensive against the government on rising prices, with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar bearing the brunt of it.

delhi Updated: Feb 26, 2010 00:27 IST
HT Correspondent

The Opposition and some of the backers of the ruling coalition came together on Thursday to launch an all-out offensive against the government on rising prices, with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar bearing the brunt of it.

Initiating the debate in the Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe into what she said were scams involving wheat, rice, pulses and sugar.

“The actual reason for inflation is not because farmers got more but because of scams in wheat, rice, pulses and sugar. We were importing sugar at a higher price and exporting sugar at a lower price at the same time,” she said.

Countering her charge, Sanjay Nirupam of the Congress said Swaraj's maiden speech as opposition leader was full of "half-truths".

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav saw the debate as an opportunity to wean Pawar, who is also the president of the Nationalist Congress Party that is part of the ruling coalition, away from the UPA.

"I want to caution Pawar. The Congress has been telling its cadre that you are responsible for price rise… Come out of the UPA and we will work together," he said.

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, whose party is backing the government but is not part of the UPA, put the Congress on notice.

"We will give a call for Bharat bandh, if you don't control prices within a month," he said. "The situation might become serious… You are arrogant, out of control and will have to leave in between.... we supported you to keep them (pointing towards BJP benches) away."

Replying to the debate, Pawar said prices of essential commodities including pulses, sugar and vegetables were coming down.

"Trends of past two days clearly indicate that prices… are coming down."

Sugar, channa, tur, urad and potato prices were lower than what they were three months ago.

"Sugar prices are likely to be stable at Rs 35-36 a kg level, belying speculation that they were heading towards Rs 50 a kg," he said.

While Bahujan Samaj Party's Dara Singh Chauhan blamed the Congress for food inflation, Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United) said the government's policies were lopsided. He was also critical of the media for not giving enough importance to issues like price-rise.

DMK's T.R. Baalu said Centre alone was not responsible for the public distribution system (PDS).

He said his party's government in Tamil Nadu was supplying rice at Re 1 per kg under the universal PDS. The DMK is part of the UPA.