Congress party’’s top priority is food prices: Sonia Gandhi

Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday told party Members of Parliament that bringing down food prices would be its top priority.

Gandhi supported Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the budget proposals for 2010-11, suggesting that there will be no fuel price roll back.

She was also critical of the Opposition walkout from Parliament during Mukherjee’’s budget speech last week, saying that it was not in good taste”.

The Opposition members left Parliament over a demand for a fuel price rollback on February 26. UPA allies — the Trinamool Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) have said they would prefer a rollback,but will not quit the government on the issue.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who has cautioned against instant populism, has told party MPs and UPA leaders that correcting distortions in petro good pricing was unavoidable. He also said the time to take bold decisions is “right now”.

Mukherjee also referred to the window of opportunity available to the Centre and added that fuel price hike was critical to the economy.

Mukherjee had hiked customs duty on petrol and diesel to 7.5 percent from 2.5 percent while excise duty was raised by Rs 1 on non-branded, or normal, petrol and diesel to maintain growth and give the common man spending power.

Mukherjee said he had three options before him: Sit back and do nothing; Go on a borrowing spree; or Restore the duty structure. He said he opted for the third, as the government could not afford to take economically reckless decisions.

Addressing concerns raised by UPA leaders over the decision’’s impact on the prices of essentials, he said the government has already carried out a back-of-the-envelope calculation.

“The inflationary impact will be a mere 0.41 percent,” he said, adding that an improved crop situation can absorb it.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led opposition has decided to halt proceedings in Parliament for the second consecutive day over the fuel price hike and other issues. (ANI)


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