Avocados and Onions: Nirmala Sitharaman Finds Herself in a Soup Again

"I come from a family that didn't care much for onions," Sitharaman has said.

New Delhi: In the course of a discussion in parliament about MUDRA loans and onion prices, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman made an off-the-cuff remark that has taken up headline space on the issue.

Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule had asked Sitharaman about the crisis of onion farmers and the high prices that consumers have to pay for the vegetable.

“Why has the production gone down?” asked Sule. She went on to say that onion farmers are small-time farmers and asked whether they get the minimum support price when the onion prices go low.

The price of onions has crossed over Rs 100 a kilogram and India has begun to import onions from Egypt to tide over the crisis. Sule said, “I’m not happy eating Egyptian onions.”

Also read: The Onion Price Rise is Linked to North Pakistan’s Unusually Warm Weather

When Sitharaman rose to answer the question, someone in parliament shouted out loud to her: “Do you eat onions?”

Sitharaman replied that she doesn’t eat a lot of garlic and onion. “I come from a family that didn’t care much for onions.”

Sitharaman was ostensibly making a reference to her Brahmin roots. For many modern-day Brahmins too, onions and garlic, along with meat, are a no-go.

Outside parliament, Sitharaman’s lines were echoed by junior minister for healthcare, Ashwini Choubey. He laughed off the remark by Sitharaman and said that he is a vegetarian, and thus does not eat onions either. Onions, however, are vegetables.

“I am a vegetarian. I have never tasted an onion. So how will a person like me know about the situation [market prices] of onions,” he told reporters.

Congress, however, has used Sitharaman’s line to throw jibes at the BJP government. Former minister, who is now out on bail, P. Chidambaram addressed a press conference on Thursday and said that Sitharaman was India’s version of Marie Antoinette, who is often attributed the phrase that sums up the distance between the ruler and the ruled: ‘let them have cake.’

Chidambaram asked if Sitharaman ate avocados instead of onions: “Finance Minister said yesterday that she doesn’t eat onions, so what does she eat? Does she eat avocado?”