An accord with the government to allow Parliament to function smoothly behind them, Opposition leaders on Tuesday squarely blamed its "mismanagement" for skyrocketing prices.
As a special debate on prices began as part of the accord, Opposition leaders led by Sushma Swaraj accused the Centre of "betraying" the common people by being insensitive to the hardship caused by inflation.
In a hard-hitting speech, Swaraj asked the Centre to "wake up from its deep slumber".
This is the first time the Lok Sabha discussed prices under a rule that will see the Speaker convey the "sense" of the House on the issue.
As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee listened with attention, Swaraj said the Opposition was not trying to divide the House but wanted it to support the motion.
"Do not take the curse of the poor," she told the government.
Swaraj held that the hike in prices of petroleum products, particularly kerosene and LPG, had increased the burden of the people who were already reeling under high costs of foodgrains and other essentials.
Swaraj said it was done on the pretext that the oil PSUs were incurring losses to the tune of Rs 53,000 crore whereas their annual reports showed net profits of hundreds of crores of rupees.
At this point, Mukherjee intervened, saying Swaraj was juggling with figures and projecting a wrong picture.
Swaraj said Petroleum Minister Murli Deora had told the House that the prices were raised to fund social schemes.
"People can benefit from schemes only when they survive high prices," she said.
"There is ample scope to reduce central taxes on petrol and diesel. This can be done by adopting a revenue-neutral regime."
SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav said, "The government is wasting the CBI's time against politicians like me for a petty Rs 7.5 crore whereas lakhs of crores are stashed in Swiss bank accounts. The government should use the CBI to get back the money which can be used for poverty alleviation and reducing inflation."
JD-U's Sharad Yadav saw a link between inflation and corruption and wanted the government to declare the names of those whose money was in Swiss Banks. Lalu Prasad (RJD) demanded that the government roll back the hike in prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene.
Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) warned that people would intensify their protest if the government did not take adequate steps to check prices. Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M) said the Centre hiked the prices of petrol products when the cost of essentials was already on the rise.
Sandeep Dikshit (Congress) said there was no denying that price rise was hurting people, "but it must also be noted the government had taken a number of steps, including bringing the Food Security Bill and raising the minimum support price on foodgrains, and these needed to be taken forward."
Trinamool member Sudip Bandhyopadhyay said his party was firmly behind the Manmohan Singh government.