"We are happy with the inflation, it will help farmers... Dal, grain and vegetables are more expensive. The rising prices is a benefit. We are happy," he said yesterday.
"Media kehti hai ki khane ki thali mehngi ho gayi hai...Isse fayada kisano ka hai, aur sarkar kisano ke fayda ki pachdhar hai" (Media says that cost of food plate has increased but it is benefiting farmers...and the government is in favour of farmers profit)," Verma added.
As can be expected, the opposition and even parties supporting the UPA slammed the minister. Mohan Singh of the Samajwadi Party said that the minister is not fit to continue in the government.
"His remarks on price rise are highly irresponsible. It clearly shows that he is not in touch with ground realities. The farmers are not getting remunerative prices, be it for vegetables or other products," the SP leader noted.
BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain sharply criticised Verma. "The Congress leaders are not affected by inflation at all. They are not seeing the plight of the people as a result of rising prices. It clearly shows their mentality. Today, the farmers are hit by the high cost of fertilisers and power. Then how are they going to benefit by rising prices," Hussain wondered.
He said that the ruling party is not aware of the ground realities. "The Congress talks about aam aadmi but it has drifted a long way away from them," Hussain rued.
JD(U) leader Shivanand Tiwari pointed out that Verma was trying to justify inflation when the onus is on the government to take steps to contain the rising prices. He accused the UPA of failing to tackle corruption, poverty and unemployment.
Incidentally, Verma is not the first member of the Union Cabinet to claim that inflation is good for the poor. Last month, the then Home Minister P Chidambaram who is now holding the Finance portfolio told reporters that "poor farmers" benefit from higher foodgrain procurement prices.