Most Congress leaders felt the government should introduce an ordinance so that the party can get the credit for the legislation that will provide food security to millions in the country, reports Renu Mittal
Rejecting the Opposition's demand for a special session of Parliament to discuss and pass the Food Security Bill, the government has listed the bill for Thursday's Cabinet meeting.
Sources say it has been listed as item number four.
The proposed legislation, seen as the brainchild of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the National Advisory Council that she heads, would entail an expenditure of Rs 124,747 crore a year.
While some sections of the party wanted to bring the bill to Parliament, a senior minister said most Congress leaders felt the government should introduce an ordinance so that the party could get the credit for the legislation that will provide food security to millions in the country.
The ordinance will need to be passed by Parliament within six months to become law.
The Congress's calculations are that most political parties will find it difficult to scuttle the bill once an ordinance is introduced.
If for some reason the bill is not passed in Parliament, the Congress would get the credit for introducing the bill and the Opposition parties would get the presumed abuse for letting it fall.
The law ministry cleared the bill 10 days ago, but sources say Nationalist Congress Party leader and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is opposed to the proposed ordinance.
Pawar, who has been unhappy with the bill from the beginning, wants the Bill to be debated in Parliament.
Meanwhile, Pawar, who asked all NCP ministers in the Maharashtra ministry to resign last weekend, conducted an internal survey to assess his party's chances in the next Lok Sabha election. He was startled to discover that the NCP's current tally of nine MPs may drop to four.
Pawar wants senior NCP leaders in the state to contest the Lok Sabha election so that their stature may counter the possibility of defeat.
The Food Security Bill will be the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government's premier social sector initiative in its second term.
If correctly handled, leaders feel it could earn the Congress and UPA some goodwill at a time when the government is under siege from the state of the economy and price rise, allegations of scams and corruption.
If some states in the Union are unable to provide the required amount of food grain, the proposed ordinance stipulates that an equivalent sum of money should then be paid to the individuals who come under its ambit.
The government feels since the Opposition parties did not let Parliament function when it wanted to introduce the Food Security and Land Acquisition bills, there is no need to hold a special session of Parliament.
As one Cabinet minister put it, "Let the Opposition parties try and defeat the bill. It will not be that easy since the ordinance would already have come and the Congress would have got the credit for the landmark legislation."