Onion Price row: Nirmala Sitharaman quotes Chidambaram to counter ‘being elitist’ charge

FE Online
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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday hit back at Congress for attacking her over rising onion prices. The minister had received heavy criticism after she said that she doesn’t come from a family that eats much onion and garlic. The BJP leader made the comments in the Lok Sabha while responding to a question on the recent spike in onion prices. "I don’t eat much onion and garlic. I come from such a family which doesn’t have much to do with onion," she had said.

Sitharaman’s statement sparked a massive outrage with the grand old party leaders comparing her with Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France who was famous for mocking the poor. Joining the attack, P Chidambaram took a dig and asked if Sitharamam consumes avocados instead of onions? Hours after this, the finance minister hit back at the Congress and brought up what Chidamabaram had said when the onion prices had shot up in 2012.

Responding to the attack on the floor of the House, the finance minister said that she spent a considerable amount of time explaining what steps the government was taking to deal with the onion crisis but the Congress was only interested in whether she eats onion.

"I spent 20 minutes talking about what kind of steps this government has taken for better management of onion distribution, for the use of public money to have greater storage of onions and also making sure that urgent purchases are happening from Rajasthan which truckloads are going to Jharkhand and Bihar - I have given all that data…but (the criticism is) she is elitist, she talks about not eating onions," Sitharaman said.

She then went on to read what former finance minister Chidambaram had said when onion price rise had become an issue during the UPA-II. "When the urban middle class can buy a bottle of mineral water for Rs 15, and ice cream for Rs 20 – why do they make so much noise about price rise? And these are the people accusing me of being elitists," Sitharaman thundered.

She further said that this statement was made when food price inflation was touching the sky and general inflation was beyond control.