NCP sore, Congress says Rahul misquoted (Roundup)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NEW DELHI - Differences cropped up in the ruling central coalition on the sensitive issue of price rise after the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Wednesday reacted sharply to Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s reported remarks that coalition constraints were behind the high food inflation. The Congress maintained he had been misquoted.

Gandhi reportedly made the remarks in Lucknow Tuesday.

The Congress clarification that Gandhi had been misquoted came at the party’s official briefing within minutes of the NCP conveying its displeasure.

Responding to questions about Gandhi’s remarks, Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the party leader did not refer to any coalition partner or to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

At no point did he refer to any coalition partner or to Mr. Pawar. He has been misquoted, Singhvi said.

He said the media reports were wrong and erroneous.

Singhvi said Gandhi discussed price rise during the closed-door interaction with students in Lucknow and pointed to steps taken by the central government and the responsibility of state governments.

He said the media was allowed at the venue of the interaction for less than three minutes.

Singhvi said that the party will write to the publications which had carried the report to issue a clarification.

Pawar’s NCP, a junior partner of the Congress in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition, made its unhappiness known over the remarks attributed to Gandhi, saying that any statement from a leader of the Congress should reflect humility and not arrogance.

“The Congress is not only the leading but also the primary party (of the ruling coalition) and any statement by a member of the leading party should not reflect arrogance,” said NCP leader D.P. Tripathi.

Tripathi said he had always admired Gandhi but was saddened by his remarks.

However, another NCP leader Praful Patel sought to play down the remarks attributed to Gandhi, saying the Congress leader did not criticise any party in particular.

While the tussle between the two allies over Gandhi’s reported remarks is expected to subside after the Congress clarification, Pawar has faced a veiled attack from Congress leaders in the past over his remarks concerning price rise.

Following the rise in prices of sugar last year, the NCP had also said the job of the government and the ministers was not only to point out problems, but also to find solutions.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) targeted both the Congress-led government and Pawar following remarks attributed to Gandhi.

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said Gandhi’s statement “shows his lack of knowledge. What has coalition government to do with price control”.

Sitharaman said that former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee also led a coalition government but prices were kept well under control during his tenure.

“There is a lack of leadership in the UPA-II and that is seen in their failure to control prices of essential goods, for over 22 months,” she said.

Referring to Pawar’s portfolios of agriculture and food, consumer affairs and public distribution, Sitharaman said that the two ministries which can raise conflict of interest were being held by the same person.

This itself showed lack of leadership in the UPA. “The prime minister holding repeated meetings to control prices and giving predictions about its fluctuation betrays lack of will to take effective action,” she said.

Filed under: Politics

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