Patna/New Delhi: As prices of pulses skyrocketed further, the Centre and the government of Bihar where elections are underway were today locked in a blame game even as Congress raised questions on the policies of the Modi government to tackle it.
Retail prices of tur dal today rose further to touch Rs 210 per kg while urad rates increased to Rs 198 per kg in the retail market despite the government's action against hoarding and other measures to boost supply.
With rise in prices of pulses becoming an issue in the ongoing Bihar elections, the Centre blamed the Nitish government for decline in production of pulses and for not utilising special central fund for price stabilisation.
"The Centre wrote six letters to the state governments, including the Bihar government to take benefit of 'Price Stabilisation Fund' to provide succour to the consumers, but the politically motivated Nitish Kumar government deliberately did not utilise it," Union Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh told reporters in Patna.
"Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Delhi and West Bengal which used the 'Price Stabilisation Fund', are selling pulses at Rs 120 to Rs 130 per kg through retail outlets," he said.
The Price Stabilisation Fund is raised by the state to which the Centre contributes 50 per cent of the money.
The Agriculture Minister accompanied by Union Food Minister Ramvilas Paswan was replying to Nitish Kumar raising accusing fingers at the central government for price rise, particularly that of pulses.
"The production of pulses saw a steady decline in Bihar since 2012-13 but it did not take appropriate measures to boost production of pulses despite assistance from the Centre," Singh, who also hails from Bihar, said.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Lalu Prasad have been raising the issue of price rise, particularly spiralling of prices of pulses to attack the Narendra Modi
government in Bihar poll campaign.
Kumar used Modi's 'na khauanga na khane doonga' remark to blame his policies for the spiralling prices of pulses.
Lalu Prasad has also been frequently referring to the issue in election meetings, saying, "Pulses have vanished from the plate of the poor due to rise in prices of pulses."
Paswan charged Kumar with not taking appropriate steps to contain prices of pulses with an aim to sully the image of the Modi government during polls.
"The Bihar government could have imported pulses if it had any concern for the people as there is 'zero' import duty on it," Paswan saidm and asked, "Who had stopped the state govenrment from importing pulses?"
Congress held the Modi government "responsible" for the rising prices of pulses, saying it has imported a paltry six lakh tonnes when the need was for 50 lakh tonnes.
Party's senior spokesman Anand Sharma told reporters in Delhi that there is generally a 40 to 50 lakh tonne shortfall in the demand and supply of pulses, and the same is generally imported.
A former Commerce Minister, Sharma said that this time, the production of pulses was even less but the Modi government imported just six lakh tonnes when it should have imported 50 lakh tonnes.
This has led to blackmarketing of pulses for which government is squarely responsible, he claimed.