As onion prices continue to soar, the Congress is selling onions at cheaper rates across Jaipur whereas BJP is watching amused. Rajasthan Post finds out whether it is really to bring succour for the common man or Congress’s just another shot at hogging the limelight
Onion prices continue to rise in the state.
In Jaipur, onions are selling for no less than Rs 70 to Rs 80 per kg. The common man is hard pressed to keep it out their daily menu.
But onion seems definitely on the menu of Rajasthan’s main opposition Congress party.
The Congress today would be selling onions at 12 places across the city at wholesale prices to bring relief to the common man. They would be buying directly from the farmers in the mandi and would be selling it at the same price.
After the Lalit Modi scam which failed to singe the Vasundhara Raje government, the Congress is banking on this common, ordinary vegetable to bring some tears in the eyes of the ruling party. So far, it hasn’t succeeded, so it seems.
For long, onion has been one of the most politically potent ammunition for any party.
Congress in the state has tried to seize the moment by selling it at wholesale price for the aam aadmi but how far will this move go in regaining some semblance of respect for the demoralised Congress in the state, only time can tell.
Congress got about 1000 kg of onions from the wholesale market at Rs 40 a kg against the current rate of Rs 70-80 per kg and sold it at the same price, bringing succour for the people in the last few days. This they did at two places in the city at Malviya Nagar and C-Scheme, both upper-middle class lacalities.
Congress alleges that BJP is shielding the hoarders and middlemen of onions.
The party says while the onion farmers remain poor as they are selling their produce at a lower price, the hoarders are getting protection from the BJP government and hence increasing the price.
And the BJP government instead of providing relief is only assuring the people of importing onions from Egypt and Afghanistan. The Centre is supposed to be importing onions at Rs 45 per kg and selling them at rates as high as Rs 80 to Rs 90, claim Congress. Whereas Indian farmers are forced to sell their produce at Rs 35-Rs 40 to the dealers, who in turn are hoarding them and selling them at a much higher price.
Meanwhile the prices continue to soar.
The state BJP president Ashok Parnami told Rajasthan Post the Congress does not have anything to do at the moment, so they are indulging in petty politics. He says : “Will selling onions to a handful of people at cheaper prices really help? It is just for some publicity? Why did they not do anything when the prices were high when they were in power? They could have grown onions and sold directly. Just buying and selling would not help. The Centre is taking steps at its end to end the misery of the people and soon one will see results.”
While in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi party took the initiative to sell onions at market price through PDS shops and milk booths, here the Congress has assumed the role of the Aam Aadmi Party and are trying to do the same by selling them through their own makeshift booths.
But how onion, a fast disappearing staple diet, is going to work magic for the beleaguered Congress in the desert state is a matter of debate.
Congress, which has almost lost all elections in the state beginning from Assembly, Lok Sabha to Civic polls, perhaps needs something juicier than an onion bulb to restore its credibility amongst those who matter.
While the Central government clarifies that prices of onions have been rising on account of decline in total production from 189.23 lakh tonnes in 2014-15 as against 194.02 lakh tonnes in 2013-14 i.e a decrease of 4.79 lakh tonnes, it is for the Congress here to grab the opportunity and capitalise on the onion war.
The Centre has also blamed the unseasonal rains during the crucial March to June sowing and growing period, which yields 60 percent of India’s total annual onion production and also provides supplies which are supposed to last consumers until October or November.
Most analysts, however, say only natural factors cannot be the reason for the price rise. One of the major reasons must be that a handful of traders are hoarding the item, manipulating the markets and driving up the prices.
While the Delhi unit of the Congress held a thali peeth protest outside Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s house on Sunday, here the Congress just seems satisfied to sell it only a few times through its temporary booths.
Political observers say for the Congress, the onion fight can bring it exciting gains and reinvigorate the party in turn.
And that Congress would do well to remember that onion has had a politically powerful history in India.
Onions were considered a decisive factor in the outcome of two state elections in 1998 and were blamed for the fall of the Central government in 1980.
But can onions slice through the BJP bastion and raise a stink here, only Congress and time can tell.