The Opposition missed the real hot button issue: inflation | Business Standard Column

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In the last 20 years or so, the opposition parties have been more concerned with posturing rather than the national interest.

T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan

The Winter Session of Parliament has just concluded and the current Opposition, like so many since 2004, has failed to make use of it.

In the last 20 years or so, the opposition parties have been more concerned with posturing rather than the national interest. Their tactic: disrupt, disrupt, disrupt. No one knows what they gain from it.

And so the Congress has foregone a debate in Parliament about inflation, which has the highest political potential amongst all economic subjects. It’s an issue that is on everybody’s plates and minds and certainly in their pockets.

Yet, it chose to use its limited time in Parliament to agitate about what is, in essence, a non-issue. A father is not going to be punished for the alleged crimes of the son. But that’s the latest issue the opposition has latched onto to

disrupt Parliamentary proceedings.

Demanding that the Government sack Minister of State for Home, Ajay Mishra, over the alleged involvement of his son in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence was always going to be a losing cause. This wasn’t going to happen before the UP Assembly Election next February-March. The BJP needs the Brahmins of western UP.

Be that as it may, the Congress should have been well aware of the damage high inflation can do to the re-election prospects of a government. It took a single year of double-digit inflation to destroy the UPA’s chances of coming

back in 2014.

A vote against corruption was all well and good, but the UPA would have done better than just 44 seats if inflation had stayed in the low single digits.

Inflation is picking up again. Not to the same level yet as under the UPA, but that’s definitely more to do with errors in measurement than actual price movements. The prices of essentials are multiples of what they were even a

few months ago.

Tomato prices are around Rs 80 a kg right now, about double of what they were a few months ago. In some parts of the country, they have crossed Rs 100 per kg. Onion prices are also rising, recently touching a 9-month high. Meanwhile, companies like Amul and Mother Dairy are raising the price of milk, citing costlier inputs.

As one former governor of the RBI once said, if you want to track the movement of prices that affect the common man, track milk and vegetable prices first. Demand for them is inelastic and universal.

As indeed it is for petrol and other fuels. The latest excise duty cut on fuel is not going to cut any ice with anybody. If nearly 50 per cent of the price people pay for fuel is still taxes, there is going to be no forgiveness.

Or take LPG cylinders, the types used in homes and also those purchased by restaurants and tea stalls. While the price of a 14.2 kg LPG cylinder used in homes is more than Rs 900, the price of a 19 kg commercial gas cylinder has

increased more than Rs 350 in recent months to more than Rs 2,100. So any good that the Ujjwala Yojana did in moving people to using clean fuel is being undone by the high and rising price of LPG.

The Congress in fact did hold a rally recently in Jaipur on ‘mehengai hatao’. But can you imagine? Rahul Gandhi almost exclusively spoke about the difference between Hindu and Hindutva. He said India needs a government ofHindus, and not Hindutva!!

No wonder the BJP is looking like a cat that has polished off the cream.

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