Defence Minister AK Antony on Sunday said US President George W. Bush’s statement that the growing demand for foodgrains in India had led to the spiralling of global food prices was a “cruel joke”.
The BJP, too, attacked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his silence on Bush’s remarks and said that it would raise the issue in Parliament on Monday.
Anger over Bush’s statement continued unabated on Sunday with West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee saying “he has gone out of his mind since his downfall is near”.
Antony, the first cabinet minister to speak out against Bush, said, “USA’s policies were also responsible for the foodgrain shortage. Those who criticise us shouldn’t set apart agriculture land for other purposes. The countries, including US, should rectify their mistakes.”
Bhattacherjee said, “It is preposterous for anyone to say that global food crisis, including that in America, is because of Indians. It is needless to say what the Indians get to eat or what they (Americans) eat. This only shows how he has lost his senses.”
Calling the PM’s “silence” shameful, BJP vice president MA Naqvi said, “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is behaving like an officer on deputation. He has been a failure on domestic as well as foreign fronts. He has got only a few days left in office and at least he should now stand up to protect the country’s honour and dignity.” Naqvi said with these statements, Bush was trying to assume the role of a “bread inspector” from his earlier role of world's “bomb inspector.”
"America has no right to speak about what India eats. India will not accept such interference. The government should take serious note of US president's statement and give a strong reply."
Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi said Bush's statement was aimed at mounting pressure on India to accept the agricultural practices propounded by the country.
"Instead of agriculture, they have gone for agri-business. America's diversion of corn to produce ethanol and trading practices have resulted in acute food shortage," he said, adding that the major objective of the Western food policy was to keep a large number of countries dependent on them.
Joshi said the Centre has already appointed a board, with representatives from Monsanto and Wal-Mart in it, to implement the provisions of the agreement. "However, both multinational companies do not have any knowledge on the Indian agricultural sector," he said.
BJP president Rajnath Singh said, ""The interpretation (by Bush) is totally absurd. But it has been proved time and again that the moment the Congress party comes to power, the prices of all essential commodities start moving upwards."
CPI national deputy secretary Sudhakar Reddy said the reason for this food crisis was that the US had shifted from agricultural production to bio fuel he said and pointed out that 30 per cent of the foodgrains produced this year in the US were used for biofuel, up from 18 per cent in 2007.