Insulted Left questions PMO statement

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New Delhi, Apr 25 (UNI) Taking strong exception to the Prime Minister's Office accusing the political parties of politicising the misery of the people due to price rise of essential commodities, the Left parties today deplored that '' most insulting'' remarks had been made against them and the UPA government would have to pay a heavy political price for not containing inflation.

The PMO issued a one-page statement soon after a high-level delegation of the Left parties, led by Prakash Karat and A B Bardhan met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to place before him a six-point charter of demands to curb spiralling price rise.

While CPI General Secretary Mr Bardhan told reporters that they had not indulged in scare-mongering as alleged by the PMO, CPI-M Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury said it is unfortunate that the PMO had indulged in such an exercise when the Left parties had suggested concrete measures to bring down prices of essential commodities which had gone through the roof.

According to the statement, Dr Singh appealed to all political parties to eschew the temptation of ''politicising the misery of the people'' and warned against creating an environment of scarcity which would only encourage speculators and hoarders.

''The government is taking all necessary steps to deal with the problem and there is no need for political parties to indulge in scare mongering,'' the PM said.

Mr Bardhan pointed out that the PMO statement was definitely directed against them as it was released soon after their meeting with the Prime Minister this morning. ''It is so obvious that the statement is meant only for us.'' ''The government should know that it has to rely on us as it has yet to get the Finance Bill passed in Parliament,'' Mr Bardhan said and wanted to know how the Left suggestions to curb price ''rise could be equated with politicising the issue? Are we responsible for the hoarding and food scarcity? At least the Prime Minister has recognised that people are suffering from the misery caused by price rise.'' Referring to the Prime Minister's assertion that inflation in some countries is much higher than in India, Mr Bardhan quipped,'' This is not a consolation.'' Earlier, at a press conference, Mr Yechury had a dig at the government's contention that inflation is a global phenomenon, saying that ''should we import bird flu as well as it is also a global phenomenon?'' CPI-M floor leaders in the Lok Sabha Bausdeb Acharia and Rupchand Pal dubbed as improper the PMO's statement. ''It is unfortunate and proves that the government is not serious enough to tackle the issue of price rise.'' They said the price rise is a fact and that the government is dithering and ''is reluctant to act on our demands.

The Left had been raising the issue both inside and outside Parliament as it involved millions of the suffering masses.'' Mr Bardhan, however, made it clear that they are not holding out threats to the government while asserting, ''We refuse to accept the charge. The government should not take the Left parties for granted.'' On Dr Singh's assertion that the food production has increased, the CPI General Secretary posed a counter-question, ''Then why is there a price rise?'' He also wanted to know what prevented the government from universalising and strengthening the Public Distribution System.'' For example, why has the government cut the quota of rice for Kerala.'' The CPI veteran informed that the party will hold as many as a hundred mass meeting between May 1 and 15, collect one crore signatures to be submitted to the Lok Sabha Speaker, dehoarding campaign among other things as part of the long-drawn agitation against price rise. In addition to this party programme, a joint campaign along with other Left and democratic parties will also be carried out, he said.

The Left leaders also came down heavily on the Leader of the Opposition L K Advani for not turning up for a discussion on price rise.

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