Home minister P Chidambaram found himself at the centre of a political row over his Tuesday’s statement where he said people were prepared to pay R20 for a ice cream cone but protest against a rupee hike in wheat and rice prices.
As UPA ally Nationalist Congress Party and opposition BJP took him on, Chidambaram expressed shock and disgust over “deliberate distortion” of his statement in the media about the middle-class attitude towards price rise, saying he did not “mock or chide” anyone.
But BJP's ally Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav backed Chidambaram, saying the truth had “accidentally” come out from the mouth of a “supporter” of market forces.
Chidambaram had made the remarks while answering a question at a news conference in Bangalore.
“He (Chidambaram) is shocked and disgusted by the deliberate distortion of the relevant question and answer at the media briefing in Bangalore on July 10,” a ministry statement said here. “Chidambaram used the word ‘we’ and did not use the words attributed to him in media reports, which quoted him as saying ‘why do they make so much noise about price rise’,” the statement added.
The Congress sought to bury the controversy. “I think he has already clarified and there is nothing that I can contribute, add or subtract,” party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury said. But NCP’s DP Tripathi said, “I wish the commonman in India was as prosperous as Chidambaram. I did not expect this kind of sarcastic remark from a cultured and educated man like Chidambaram.”
Dubbing Chidambaram’s remarks as a proof of an insensitive government, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad questioned Congress chief Sonia Gandhi silence when ministers were “consistently, deliberately and periodically insulting the common man”.
Asking the government to spare the common man humiliation, if it cannot solve the problem of the ever-rising inflation, he said, “The government lacks a will to stem the rot and it is trying to put the blame on the victims the way Chidambaram attacked the middle class.”
Disagreeing with Sharad Yadav, Prasad said the middle-class like other sections paid taxes and were burdened by inflation. “Is it a crime if parents take a child to India Gate and get him a cone of ice-cream,” he asked Chidambaram.