A hot potato is a controversial problem, a touchy subject. If someone deals with a hot potato issue, he is dealing with something that is “too hot to handle” and he might get “burned”, in the metaphorical sense. A related term is drop like a hot potato. Presumably, these phrases are meant to call to mind pulling a hot, cooked potato out of a fire and juggling it between two hands while it cools. The term drop like a hot potato first appears in 1824.
Hot potato is also a game played by children. In this game, children sit in a circle. While music plays, the children pass a bean bag or similar item around, quickly, so they will not be caught holding the “hot potato” when the music stops. The child holding the hot potato when the music stops is eliminated, and play continues until there is a victor.
In the midst of the crucial Bihar Assembly polls, rising price of pulses, particularly that of arhar or tur dal, has become a political hot potato, with both the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Opposition parties blaming each other for the crisis. (The New Dehli Business Standard)
The ongoing Republican fight over who will be the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has quickly become a game of hot potato, with candidates withdrawing as fast as their names are offered. (The Austin Chronicle)
The government ministries involved all seem to want to pass the hot potato on to someone else, and in a recent meeting with National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz it was decided to pass it back to the Electricity Authority. (Haaretz)
In a political environment where matters of gender equality are tossed around like a game of hot potato, few issues are more polarizing than the topic of gender neutral public restrooms. (The Huffington Post)
The same kind of negative groundswell forced Emanuel to drop like a hot potato his plan to permanently rename Stony Island Avenue for the late Bishop Arthur Brazier. (The Chicago Sun-Times)