With less than a year left for the next assembly elections in Bihar, opposition politicians have turned to onions, apparently finding in it a great potential to transform their fate. Onion politics indeed has taken a curious turn in the state as the skyrocketing price of the pungent vegetable upsets the kitchen’s budget.
The new politician to join the caravan is former parliamentarian Pappu Yadav. Carrying a sackful of onion on his head, the Jan Aadhikar Party (JAP) chief has been selling onions to the poor at a subsidized rate. While it is currently being sold at Rs100 a kg in the market, Yadav is selling it for just Rs35 a kg to the local residents, attracting huge crowds of villagers. Not only that, he has also announced to supply 10 kg of onion at the same rate to the families where weddings are to be solemnized.
He alleged that neither the centre nor the state government is worried about the fate of the common men. “When they can provide subsidy to fuel why can’t on onion?” he asked. He even mocked the Narendra Modi government’s plan of “wasting” thousands of crores in the name of constructing temple. “Will the Modi government spend Rs 4,000 crore only on construction of Ram temple? What is for the poor?” wondered Yadav.
At the same time, he slammed the ruling Nitish Kumar government for announcing to spend Rs 24,000 crore on launching a campaign to save the environment. “Government’s concern for environmental is okay but don’t the masses deserve to get cheap vegetables?” he asked.
Prior to Yadav, Bihar State Cooperative Marketing Union Limited (BISCOMAUN), state’s apex marketing society had been selling onion at subsidized rate across the state. BISCOMAUN, whose chairman Sunil Kumar Singh is considered to be close to RJD president Lalu Prasad, opened hundreds of counters to provide cheap onions to the masses at Rs 35 a kg as huge crowds of people rushed to take benefit of the offer. Each person was being supplied two kg of onions at a time.
Apart from opening the counters, the marketing body also rushed dozens of mobile vans to various localities of the town to thin down the crowd. The sale, however, has to be stopped after the local administration warned this could lead to law and order problem. The warning came after the villagers scrambled and pelted stones to lay their hands on onions at some places, including in Ara, after which the staffs were seen wearing helmets to sell onion. Eventually, the sale had to be stopped due to mounting pressures from the administration, BISCOMAUN chairman alleged. “While the Nitish Kumar government itself did nothing to provide vegetables to the people at cheap rate, it has also stopped BISCOMAUN from helping the poor masses,” Tejashwi alleged.
Other opposition parties such as RJD and Congress too tried to make onion price an issue during the just-concluded session of the state assembly which continued for barely five days. During this occasion, several opposition legislators were seen reaching the House with garlands of onions around their necks.