Fearing that the rise in onion prices may affect its election prospects, the Congress-led Delhi government started selling onions at a cheaper rate on Saturday from about 80 mobile vans. Although the model code of conduct has kicked in before the December 4 polls, the Election Commission (EC) allowed the state to make cheaper onions available in view of the price crisis.
Not to be outdone, the Delhi BJP too asked the EC for permission to make onions available cheap.
The food and supplies department on Saturday sent the vans zipping to 400 points across the city, selling onion at Rs. 55 per kg. Delhi’s private retailers have been selling it at Rs. 75 to Rs. 90 a kg.
The buyer stands to gain from this competitive populism. The Delhi government will increase the number of vans to 125 from Monday, covering 600 points. It hopes the price would come down to R50 across Delhi as distribution by the state will force private retailers too to sell at a lower price.
In 1998, an onion crisis led to the downfall of the BJP government at the Centre.
“Not only people, but onion has become a problem for the government too. I’ve met senior leaders asking them for their intervention and the Maharasthra chief minister has already started providing onions,” Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit said at a press conference. “We had written to the EC seeking permission to sell onion at a no-profit-no-loss basis. The EC has allowed it considering the current crisis and because we had done this exercise three weeks ago as well (when the model code had not been imposed).”
The CM said even she was not untouched by the crisis. “After weeks, I ate onions today with bhindi (okra),” said Dikshit.
She said her officers would go to Alwar in Rajasthan to get more onions. “We are already getting supplies from Nashik. Supplies from Pune have been affected because of rain,” she said.
On Saturday, the Capital received 1,600 tonne of onions, against the daily demand of 1,000 tonne.