It had asked state govts to provide details about the production, demand and supply of various commodities, but they have shown no interest

INDER SAWHNEY New Delhi

The price hike issue, sparked by the latest hike in p

etroleum prices and increase in interest rates, has become a political football.

While the Centre is struggling to find a way out, not only the opposition parties but even the state governments, particularly those being ruled by the opposition, are targeting the Centre.

The Centres charge against the state governments is that they are playing politics over the issue of hoarding. Highly- placed sources in the central government say that the Centre had asked the state governments to provide details about the production, demand and supply of various items but they have shown no interest.

The state governments have not even reported to the Centre about the action taken by against hoarders.

And the result is, senior officials say, that the hoarders are having a field day. The state governments have been harping on the point that it is the responsibility of the Centre to deal with the price hike issue.

One had the taste of the Centre- state face- off when Congress spokesperson, Rashid Alvi, criticised the opposition- ruled states for their failure to minimize the burden of the people by reducing taxes on petroleum products. In a rare display of anger, journalists booed Ali by and asked him to giver details of the taxes imposed by the Congressruled states on petroleum products.

Meanwhile, there is another disturbing angle, which is worrying the Congress leaders. While the Centre and the RBI are facing a dilemma as there are fears that their steps to snuff out inflation might hurt growth, raising the risk of plunging the economy into slowdown, the timing of the hike has also become a cause for their worry as the festive season is round the corner. Congress leaders are worried over its impact on the next years elections. This was the reason that Rahul Gandhi met the Prime Minister on Friday.

However, the government has given enough indications that raising the interest rate is the only potent tool in the hands of the RBI to tame prices. According to the Prime Ministers economic advisor, Dr Rangarajan, to reduce the prices, the government has no other option but to increase interest rates. There are several reasons for the increase in interst ratesd.

The government and the RBI will take some decision only after studying all the aspects.

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