In her first public reaction to price rise, an issue which had put the Congress at the receiving end with both foes and friends joining hands to attack the government at the Centre, Ms Gandhi attributed the increase in the rate of inflation to international developments in recent weeks. "This continues to cause us great concern." "I am aware that our Prime Minister is very sensitive to this issue and that he knows very well our party's thinking," she said in the latest issue of the Party's mouthpiece "Congress Sandesh."
In this context, Ms Gandhi pointed out that the thinking of the party was that "while higher growth is essential, we must at the same time ensure that the prices of essential commodities remain affordable to all sections of society."
"Strengthening of the PDS is something that the state governments are responsible for and is something that they must make a priority." In this context, she also reminded the states of the powers vested in them to control blackmarketing and hoarding. "These powers have to be exercised so that the price rise does not affect the aam aadmi." Referring to the forthcoming elections in eight states this year, the Congress President asked partymen to stand united and disciplined so that the party could emerge successful there.
She wanted the partymen to become fully aware of the achievements of the UPA government and propagate them among the people.
Highlighting the salient features of the Union Budget for 2008-09, Ms Gandhi accused the previous BJP-led NDA government of having "deliberately and cruelly" neglected the agriculture sector.
"We have had to take very many measures to undo the very adverse impact of this neglect, of which the loan waiver scheme is the latest." Pointing out that the NDA regime depressed minimum support prices and neglected irrigation, she claimed that the present UPA government had increased minimum support price very substantially and had enhanced public expenditures for irrigtion very significantly.
He said the UPA is showing no such foresight and has left the Aam Admi to fend for himself with no governmental support.
"If the inflation in the present regime has become an unlegislated tax on the masses and the problem can only get confounded in the future and the party will take the issue to the people throughout the country", he added.
In a separate statement, BJP spokesman Ravishankar Prasad attacked the dismal track record of the UPA governance in containing the inflation, price rise, food and national security.
However, Tamil Nadu BJP vice-president H Raja criticised the Centre for its inept handling to contain the hike in prices of essential commodities.