All options on food bill are open: Nath after UPA meeting
In the wake of the wiping out of almost the entire State Congress leadership in Chhattisgarh on May 25, the UPA coordination committee that met here on Monday evening discussed the Maoist issue at length: sources in the party said an all-party meeting would be called on the subject very soon.
Interestingly, the Food Security Bill that was meant to be on the agenda was not discussed, with the reason varying from UPA leaders being more concerned about tackling Maoist violence to apparent opposition to the bill from Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party that has now described the proposed legislation as anti-farmer: it may be recalled that Mr. Yadav had also boycotted the UPA’s ninth anniversary celebrations on May 22.
The UPA allies who attended included three Cabinet Ministers – the Nationalist Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar, the National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, the Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Ajit Singh – and one MoS, the IUML’s E. Ahmed.
Emerging from the meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, while stressing that the food bill was not discussed, said, “All the options on the Food Security Bill ... are still open. We will be considering that further in the days to come.”
The food bill may not have been discussed at the meeting on Monday, the party sources said, but it remains on the alliance’s agenda. Given the BJP’s obstructionist tactics thus far in Parliament, the government is now even considering the possibility of taking the ordinance route, if it fails to pass the bill in the monsoon session.
Sources in the government said it would make another attempt to pass it in the monsoon session, which could be advanced: if it fails to do so, then it will get an ordinance promulgated. Given that there can be a gap of six months between two sessions of Parliament, and an ordinance needs to be passed within six weeks of the following session, then the government can wait till December. Either way it will then have an issue to go to the polls with – if it is passed, the fact that the government enacted such legislation, if the ordinance falls then, it can hold the BJP responsible for being anti-poor.
Earlier in the day, the BJP, anticipating that the UPA may discuss the food bill, made some conciliatory noises. It said it wanted the monsoon session to be advanced to debate and pass the food security and land acquisition bills with some amendments. Indeed, BJP president Rajnath Singh told journalists in Hyderabad that his party was ready for debate on both the bills.
Meanwhile, a Chief Ministers’ conference on internal security has been planned for Wednesday.
Andhra Pradesh, official sources said, would give a 20-minute special presentation on its much-acclaimed model of anti-Maoist operations at a special session of nine Chief Ministers of Left-Wing Extremism-hit States, to be held on the sidelines of the conference.