Shooting prices to dominate Delhi campaign

November 7th, 2008 - 10:53 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) With tomatoes touching Rs.50 a kilogram, the humble dal selling at upwards of Rs.60 a kg and chicken at Rs.120 per kg from Rs.90 only a fortnight ago, political parties will have to convince people what they will do to bring down prices as they prepare for the electoral battle.As parties woo voters ahead of assembly elections in Delhi Nov 29, it is clear that rising prices and the growing uncertainty of the job market will be major campaign issues.

From multinational workers to domestic helps, the everyday bread and butter issues are primary preoccupations, however they are expressed.

Madhavi Misra, a domestic worker who earns Rs.1,200 from two houses in north Delhi, is at her wits’ end.

“Prices of vegetables like potatoes and tomatoes have shot through the roof. How can I afford to pay Rs.50 for a kg of tomatoes for which I used to pay just Rs.20 a few months ago? With three children to feed, how do I manage?” she asked.

“When I asked my employers to increase my pay, they said that they can’t keep increasing it every third month. But what can a common person like me do?” Misra said, quite sure that in these unsure times she will vote for the party that can promise her that the situation will improve.

At the other end of the spectrum is Tanuja Masand, who works for an MNC in south Delhi’s upscale Greater Kailash II. She might not be as interested in tomatoes but her budget has been hit too.

“The rising inflation should come down. Petrol is unaffordable and it has hit my everyday life as I have to drive my car all the way from east Delhi to south Delhi every day for work. The government does not seem to be interested in cutting oil prices,” she said.

To mark their protest against the increased prices of essential commodities and services, some have decided to boycott the elections.

Homemakers like Annie Baby in Mayur Vihar in east Delhi have their own set of worries.

“We won’t vote this time as we have lost faith in the parties. Vegetable prices have gone up and schools are also planning to increase tuition fees. It will be a massive blow to our savings,” she said.

Abhishek Awasthi, a student, who lives in a rented apartment with three friends, has had to sack his cook because they just can’t afford to dish out Rs.800 every month. “We divide the kitchen chores,” he said, hoping that the next government will offer a way out of the price mess.

Realising that it has to tap into the urgent concerns of its voters if it has to oust the Congress-led Sheila Dikshit, who is pitching for a third term in office, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said its gameplan is clear.

The BJP has already demanded that the state government clarify the reasons behind the increase in the prices of essential commodities and will go all out on the issue in these days before the elections.

“Essential commodities have gone out of the reach of the common person. Our main plank in this election is price rise,” said Mewa Ram Arya, the Delhi BJP’s spokesperson.

His colleague Vijay Jolly, who is contesting against Sheila Dikshit in the New Delhi constituency, has already held a “tomato roadshow” and is confident of winning the election.

“If Obama could defeat McCain, then in these assembly elections I will definitely defeat Sheila Dikshit,” he said Wednesday.

The Congress, which has 47 seats in the 70-member house, shot back by saying that the BJP was trying to politicise the price rise as a big election issue and deviate from terrorism.

“The UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government and the Delhi state government have taken a series of measures to curb the price rise. Politicising the issue is unfortunate,” said Tom Vadakkan, All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary in-charge, Media.

“The BJP is politicising the price rise issue to deviate from their earlier issue of terrorism. Now, their own people have been found to be involved in terrorism,” Vadakkan added.

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