New Delhi: Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over increase in the prices of essential commodities, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday called him "Arhar Modi, Arhar Modi" and asked him to announce a date by which the prices will come down.
He was playing on the battle cry of "Har Har Modi" by the Bharatiya Janata party leader's supporters in the run-up to 2014 general elections. The slogan "Arhar Modi" first became popular during the Bihar assembly elections last year.
In a brief speech in the Lok Sabha, Gandhi reminded the Prime Minister of his promises during campaigning for the 2014 general elections and said in the last two years Modi has made "hollow promises" to the people.
Gandhi repeatedly referred to the "Har Har Modi" slogan and said now the people are reaping its harvest by saying "Arhar Modi" -- a reference to growing prices of pulses, including arhar dal.
The coinage #ArharModi has been trending quite heavily on the social media since Gandhi's speech in the Lok Sabha.
Reminding Modi of his election speech in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 -- when Modi said he wanted to be a "chowkidar (guard)" for the country and not the Prime Minister -- Gandhi said the task of safe-guarding the interests of the poor should now be "left to the Congress".
The Congress Vice-President also referred to Modi's speech at an election rally in Himachal Pradesh in February 2014, wherein he had said that "Maa, bachche raat raat rote hain, aasoon pee ke sote hain (mothers and children cry the whole night and sleep after swallowing their tears)".
"What a dialogue," Gandhi exclaimed sarcastically. Modi was not present in the house.
"I want to remind the Prime Minister of the promises he made that when the BJP government comes to power, it will bring down the prices," the Congress leader said.
"Modi ji, jitne khokhle vaade karne hai kariye... 'Stand-Up India', 'Make in India'. Par is house ko ek tareekh de dijiye jab market mein daam kam ho jayenge (Modi ji, make as many empty promises as you want... but please announce a date in this house when the prices will come down)," Gandhi said.
He alleged that the National Democratic Alliance's flagship programmes like 'Make in India' and 'Stand-Up India' had failed as they could not generate jobs for the youth.
"You had made a good speech then. But now that you are the Prime Minister, we want to ask you one question: Why have the prices not come down?" Gandhi said.
Gandhi claimed that compared to 2014, prices of certain essential items have gone up between 100 and 300 per cent.
"During the elections, Modi ji said 'make me a chowkidar' (guard). Now, there is a theft of dal under the very nose of the chowkidar," the Congress Vice-President said.
"Now you are the Prime Minister... you have become a big man. Why should you be a chowkidar too? Leave that duty to us, the Congress party," Gandhi said amid strong protests from the Bharatiya Janata Party members.
Reeling out figures, the Congress leader said urad and tur pulses, priced around Rs 70 a kg in February 2014, have now gone up to Rs 160 and Rs 180 a kg respectively this month.
He said there was a small difference between the minimum support price of Rs 45 a kg given to the tur/arhar dal growers and its market price of Rs 75. Now, the MSP has risen to Rs 50, but the price of the pulses has gone up to Rs 180 a kg, Gandhi said.
"So there is a gap of Rs 130 under the NDA government. Where is this Rs 100 going?" he wanted to know.
Gandhi also charged the Modi government with being friendly towards the corporates.
Claiming the government had waived off Rs 52,000 crore dues of the big business houses, he said such moves did not benefit the cause of the poor people, farmers and housewives.
The BJP fielded Hukumdev Narayan Yadav immediately after Gandhi's speech and the lawmaker from Bihar denied the Congress leader's allegation that the Modi government was responsible for price rise.
"Contrary to Rahul Gandhi's allegations, the Modi government has catered most for the welfare of the poor people. Opening bank accounts under the Jan Dhan scheme and cheap cooking gas to the poor only shows the government's commitment towards them," Yadav said.
Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy also slammed the government for skyrocketing prices.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also defended the government at a "difficult stage".
"We have been able to keep things under control despite two years of bad monsoon, which resulted in higher food inflation," Jaitley said.