Cong CMs meet blames NDA govt for price rise
New Delhi, July 5 (UNI) In a clear move to put the Opposition BJP on the defensive on the price rise issue, a meeting of the Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled states today blamed some of the "trader-friendly" measures of the previous Vajpayee government as responsible for the recent increase in prices of essential commodities.
However, they resolved to monitor the price situation closely and take such further steps as might be found necessary.
In a resolution adopted at the end of a three-hour-long meeting, convened by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, they requested the government to reconsider the February 15, 2002 order of the BJP-led NDA government rescinding all Control Orders under the Essential Commodities Act.
They requested that forward trading in foodgrains and some other essential commodities should be better regulated in order to curb excessive speculation.
The Chief Ministers suggested that the state governments be empowered to intervene in cases of hoarding of essential commodities.
Out of the 14 Congress Chief Ministers, Capt Amarinder Singh (Punjab) and Mr Tarun Gogoi (Assam) did not participate in the meeting on health grounds. Meghalaya Chief Minister J D Rymbai was also absent in the meeting as the asssmbly was in session.
Briefing mediapersons on the deliberations, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Ms Gandhi advised the Chief Minsiters to continue to take mesures to strengthen the Public Distribution (PDS) and ensure that the PDS functions effectively and provides essential commodities to the common people at reasonable prices.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister P Chidamabaram and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and AICC General Secretaries and CWC members in charge of states and AICC treasurer Motilal Vora e attended the meeting at Ms Gandhi's official 10, Janpath residence.
The meeting began with opening remarks by Ms Gandhi, setting the trend for the discussion. Dr Singh and Mr Chidambaram explained the steps that the Centre had initiated so far to check price rise.
Clearly, the emergency meeting was an attempt by the Congress to take the wind out of the sail of the Left parties and the Opposition BJP over the vexed price rise issue. The issue has brought in considerable embarrassment to the UPA government and the Congress party which were accused of shedding ''crocodile tears'' without doing anything concrete.
The Left parties, which are supporting the government from outside, have already announced their plan to launch a week-long stir against price rise and disinvestment from July 13.
In a bid to demonstrate that the Congress did not lag behind its detractors in the matter of addressing the concerns of the ''aam aadmi'' (common man), the high command is expected to give direction to its Chief Ministers to take strongest measures against hoarders, black-marketeers and profiteers.
As a prelude to today's meeting, Ms Gandhi held a round of discussion yesterday with AICC general secretaries in charge of states to receive inputs about the ground situation.
The CMs meet, which comes close on the heels of a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the highest policy making body of the century-old political outfit, is a clear indication that the ruling party is in no mood to take any chances on the issue of price rise and inflation at a time when at least three states, including Uttar Pradesh, are going to polls early next year.
Normally, the Congress CMs conclave is held to assess the performance of the government in states where it is in power.
However, this is the first time that the Congress has invited its Chief Ministers to discuss an individual issue -- price rise.
This is the second meeting of Congress Chief Ministers after the party-led UPA coalition came to power in 2004 after a gap of nearly 10 years when the party was in political wilderness.
Today's meeting is the seventh in the series after the Congress started in 2001 the practice of bringing together its chief ministers to assess the performance of the party-ruled states.
Party sources pointed out that a two-day Congress CMs conclave would be held towards the year end. However, the emergency situation forced the party high command to convene today's meeting.
The last Congress CMs conclave was held at Chandigarh in October 2005.