The Congress party came under fire from two of its key allies — Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and M Karunanidhi’s Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) —on Thursday as the Communist Party of India (Marxist) wound up its party congress with a resolve to work towards a programme-oriented non-Congress, non-BJP alternative.
The war of words between these UPA constituents over price rise and a water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka does not augur well for the alliance in the run-up to elections to seven state assemblies and the Lok Sabha. The first of the string of polls are due in Karnataka next month.
The inflation rate was pegged at a 13-month high of 6.7 per cent last week, prompting the government to cut duties on key commodities. The Left parties, which provide outside support to the UPA government, have threatened to launch a nationwide agitation if prices are not brought under control by April 15. The Congress has reportedly tried to deflect the blame on Pawar, who handles the agriculture ministry and the state governments for inadequate measures to curb hoarding.
But the NCP is breathing fire. “The Congress party has shown neither generosity nor magnanimity towards its allies. Instead of attacking the Opposition, they are undermining their allies,” party General Secretary DP Tripathi told reporters.
The Congress said that it had never singled out any individual for the price-rise that would be controlled soon. But the sting in the tail became visible when it advised the NCP to look within for its actions in Meghalya and Nagaland where it shares power with non-Congress entities, including the BJP.
The NCP said Pawar did his best to check the upward trend in prices. “States would have to streamline their public distribution systems and check hoarding. The central ministry has formulated policies for controlling prices but the states have to implement them,” Tripathi said.
The Congress rebutted the NCP charge. “We have never blamed any individual for the price rise as we are confident of controlling it. The present escalation bout is not due to eatables, we have made that clear,” said Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari.
“It is the NCP which has to decide its attitude towards the UPA. It cannot run with hares while hunting with hounds,” he said.
The NCP accused the Congress of not following the coalition spirit, but spoke positively about the government. “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was working in a democratic manner, but the UPA was not. Why are allies not called for regular consultations?” Tripathi asked.