Guwahati: Notwithstanding widespread criticism of his comment that eight people could have a proper meal for just Rs 20 and the chief minister distancing himself from it, Assam Agriculture Minister Nilomoni Sen Deka on Monday said he would prove it.
"I will not apologise for the comment - there is no question at all. Within a week I will call a press conference and explain to everyone how it is possible (meal for eight at Rs 20)," he said here.
Deka, who is also the Horticulture and Food Processing Minister of the state, had earned the ire of the people by saying last week that eight persons can have a proper meal for Rs 20, which means the cost of a single meal is just Rs 2.5.
His comment triggered widespread protests and strong reactions in the state and all major parties cutting across political ideologies had condemned it.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had distanced himself from the comment saying it was Deka`s personal view.
"I have never said that I will get a meal for Rs 2.50. I do not know why he (Deka) said it and with what context. This was his personal view," Gogoi had said.
With Deka reiterating his comment, various organisations across the state came out on the streets during the day and protested over the minister`s meal remark.
Many even burnt his effigies.
Opposition AGP President Prafulla Kumar Mahanta
lambasting Deka`s comments termed it as `rubbish`.
"Let him (Deka) tell us how much he spends on each meal. In our state, we have recently witnessed that a mother sold her child because of extreme hunger. How can a senior minister speak like this?," he added.
"It is ridiculous. It is not at all possible in reality. By this statement, a senior minister like Deka has in fact insulted the poor of the state. We strongly condemned this," CPI(M) State Secretary Uddhab Barman told.
BJP state president Sarbananda Sonowal charged the Congress government of running a syndicate in every food item and buying a meal at such a low price was impossible given the current inflation.
"Congress is promoting syndicate and allowing criminals and racketeers to control the market. That is why it is possible for Congress ministers and MLAs to get food without paying a single penny. That is why Deka is saying this," he said.
"I have invited the Chief Minister and Deka to come to the market as a commoner and purchase food items. They will then realise what is possible," he added.
Congress spokesperson Raj Babbar and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah after triggering a huge controversy with their meal remarks last week had expressed their regrets.
Babbar, who had said that a meal could be got for Rs 12, apologised after the Congress distanced itself from his remarks and that of another party colleague Rashid Masood that meals could be had for Rs 5 in Delhi. Farroq Abdullah had said meals could be had for even Re 1.