The government is being pushed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to put the food bill on fast track as the Congress had promised a ‘right to food’ in its 2009 election manifesto, reports Anita Katyal
With Congress President Sonia Gandhi insisting that the Food Security Bill be implemented at the earliest, the United Progressive Alliance government will again explore the possibility of taking the ordinance route at Wednesday’s meeting of the Union Cabinet.
The Cabinet had deferred its proposal to promulgate an ordinance on the Food Security Bill last month and instead decided to hold consultations with allies and Opposition parties for their support for the proposed legislation.
Home Minister and Lok Sabha leader Sushil Kumar Shinde, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath and Food Minister K V Thomas were asked to conduct the consultations. There was also a proposal to convene a special session of Parliament for the passage of this bill.
With Opposition parties and allies like the Samajwadi Party expressing reservations about the bill, the UPA government is veering around to its old proposal of promulgating an ordinance. The government is also being pushed by Sonia Gandhi to put this on fast track as the Congress had promised a ‘right to food’ in its 2009 election manifesto.
With less than a year to go for the next general election, the implementation of the Food Security Bill has acquired special urgency. The Congress believes this legislation along with the Land Acquisition Bill and the Direct Benefits Transfer could prove to be a game changer for it in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The Congress desperately needs a big bang idea or proposal to resurrect its sagging image. Sonia Gandhi is convinced that the Food Security Bill is the right choice. She, therefore, wants the bill to be passed as soon as possible so that its benefits can reach the people.
Although Sonia Gandhi was keen that a special session be convened for the passage of this bill, the proposal is no longer on the table as there is no time. The monsoon session of Parliament is slated to open by July 22.
Although there are only three weeks to go for this session, the UPA government is looking at the ordinance route as it wants to implement it immediately as it is convinced that Opposition parties will block the legislation in Parliament. An ordinance will present the Opposition with a fait accompli.
“If they allow the ordinance to lapse, the Opposition will have a lot of explaining to do to the people,” remarked a senior Congress leader, adding that it will put them on the defensive.
The Congress will then be able to hold the Opposition responsible for blocking a pro-poor programme in its election campaign. It is hoping the Opposition will have no option but to support this legislation.
The bill that has been four years in the making proposes to provide cheap rice or wheat to 67 per cent population to be identified by the state governments.