Price rise sends UPA partners into a tizzyApril 5th, 2008 - 2:51 pm ICT by admin
New Delhi, April 5 (IANS) Increasing prices of essential commodities are giving the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) partners pre-poll jitters. Restive with the inability of the Manmohan Singh government to bring down prices, rumblings are growing louder within the UPA. On top of a three-year high inflation at 7 percent, the unseasonal rainfall and its damage to rabi crops throughout the country is adding to the UPA government’s and its allies’ woes.
The main worry is that any prolonged economic crisis would alienate voters from the UPA and hurt its electoral prospects in general elections due in 2009.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), a crucial ally of the UPA, is getting more and more uneasy over price rise. “It is true that we are supporting the government. But we cannot go on compromising the people’s interests for the sake of the government,” RJD MP Ram Kripal Yadav told IANS.
“This (spiralling prices) will affect the UPA’s electoral prospects,” admitted Tariq Anwar, an MP of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), an UPA ally.
Many in the UPA admit that the runaway inflation has “spoiled the UPA’s party” and taken the wind out of the sails of the ‘historic’ budget presented by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in February.
The budget had announced a Rs. 600 billion loan waiver package for bankrupt farmers - something that the UPA government was hoping to cash in on for the general elections.
“Tall claims by the prime minister and finance minister on eight percent growth are not going to gain us votes. People want prices of essential commodities to be controlled,” pointed out a UPA leader who did not wish to be named.
Some UPA partners like the NCP are already trying to distance themselves from the Congress’ discomfiture and the crisis facing the UPA government.
Anwar said: “There should been proper discussions and discourses in the UPA over how to contain the price rise. The Congress failed to do so.” He however conceded that the Congress party, alone, should not be blamed for the economic crisis. The NCP, too, was “part and parcel” of the UPA government.
Yadav squarely put the onus on the government to bring the price situation under control.
“It is very bad and we are deeply worried about it. The government should take steps and reach out to people,” Yadav said.
“A political party will always try to distance itself from the people’s wrath,” said a UPA leader when asked whether the inflation would lead to disintegration of the ruling coalition.
The NCP has already come out publicly against Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the party leadership, saying that the UPA did not express enough “democratic team spirit”.
The Congress, in return, has blamed the NCP for trying to “weaken the cohesiveness of the UPA”.
Like their partners Congress leaders are also worried about the economic downslide. They are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping to turn around the situation soon so that it does not cast a shadow on its poll prospects.
Congress leaders concede that the government’s attempts to control the prices of food grain, pulses and edible oil have not yielded results. “Your voters are not going to be satisfied with long speeches over growth and strong economy. The party will face disaster if you do not address the real issues,” a senior Congress leader said.
Congress party’s communist allies, who have been vocal against the economic policies of the government, have announced a mass agitation that would be launched after April 15.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which along with three other Left parties, extends outside support to the UPA, has been trying to rope in Samajwadi Party and the TDP to join the anti-price rise agitation.
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