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30 April, 2009

Cong battles sticky price issue

Times of India
30 Apr 2009, CHANDIGARH: The Congress is increasingly finding it tough to explain spiralling food prices as the issue looks set to top the poll agenda ofvoters. In an indication of how the household budget is getting affected is the rise of sugar rate to Rs 29 a kg from Rs 22 in just a month!
It is the same story with the ubiquitous potato which now costs Rs 15 a kg against Rs 10 last week. Similarly, tomatoes shot up to Rs 15 from Rs 10 per kg in the last 15 days.
’’It is ridiculous that rates of most essential commodities have gone up. Right from vegetables to fruits, cooking oil and wheat, there is a hike in almost everything,’’ fumed Lovinder Kaur, a homemaker.
Isha Jawa also has the same grouse. ‘’Skyrocketing rates of sugar, rice, pulses and wheat have certainly made a hole in the pocket of the middle and lower middle-class. This can even tilt fortunes of some candidates, especially those from the ruling party.’’
Facing a lot of uncomfortable questions from the electorate, Congress tries defending itself by attributing the economic changes to various factors that are reportedly beyond their control. However, calling it a transitory phenomenon, former Chandigarh mayor and senior Congresssman Pardeep Chhabra said, ‘’I don’t think the present rise in prices can affect prospects of a candidate or government in a big way. It’s a temporary phase which will soon vanish from the scene.’’
This has, though, given ready fodder to the opposition when in less than a fortnight residents will seal the fate of city politicians at the hustings on May 13. Seeking an answer for the common man, BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from UT, Satya Pal Jain, said, ‘’Why can’t Congress curb peaking prices of essential commodities. It can’t run away from responsibilities when household items like sugar, kerosene, wheat, rice and vegetables have gone beyond the reach of common man.’’
According to BSP candidate Harmohan Dhawan, ‘’People are fed up and will definitely vote against the ruling Congress this time.’’
Trying to give the present scenario a logical angle, a leading vegetable wholesale dealer, Deepak Dhawan, said, ‘’The main reason of retail prices going up is a short supply of commodities from markets in the region. Most vegetables like potatoes and onions and fruits like apples and oranges have been coming from cold storage as it’s the off-season now and, hence, the high rates.’’
And in news that won’t be music to ears of city residents and the ruling party but seemingly melodious to rival groups is what Deepak added to conclude: ‘’Rates of most veggies and fruits are going to be still higher as local markets are fast exhausting their stocks.’’