Proposal is listed for discussion at the Union Cabinet meeting

Disregarding continuing opposition to the idea, the government will make another bid to get the Union Cabinet’s nod for promulgating an ordinance on the Food Security Bill that gives legal rights for subsidised foodgrains to 67 per cent of the population. The proposal is listed for discussion at the Union Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

In political circles it is believed that if the government is persisting with the ordinance route then there is a possibility of early elections. General elections are due in May 2014.

A decision on the proposal was deferred at the previous Cabinet meeting on June 13. It was believed that the Samajwadi Party, which lends outside support to the government, had warned the UPA against going ahead with the ordinance. The government then assigned a Group of Ministers (GoM) with the task of reaching out to the leaders of the Opposition and outside supporting parties.

“Nobody has spoken to us,” CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat told The Hindu. “What is the sense of bringing an ordinance when the monsoon session is due any way? We will be moving amendments on the Bill.”

SP opposes move

Echoing similar thoughts, Samajwadi Party’s Rajya Sabha member Naresh Agrawal said nobody from among the GoM approached the party leadership.

“We are opposed to the ordinance and the Bill, which is anti-farmer,’’ he said.

The BJP has declared its opposition to the promulgation of an ordinance. They want the Bill to be on the lines of the Chhattisgarh Food Security Bill which gives legal rights to cheap foodgrains to 90 per cent of the population. The party said it would be moving amendments when the Bill comes up for discussion in Parliament.

The government has not made any attempt to convince Opposition leaders on its controversial move, but it has silenced differences within the party and managed to get on board its allies particularly the Nationalist Congress Party. The ordinance, therefore, is likely to get the Cabinet nod on Wednesday.

Well-placed sources told The Hindu that the government wants to take the ordinance route as it needs at least six months to get the States to identify the beneficiaries and another couple of months to implement the legislation to get an edge in the 2014 elections, as it did with the farm loan waiver scheme in 2009.

The Food Ministry will move in the Cabinet its proposal to promulgate an ordinance on the Food Bill, along with its 81 amendments, most of which are recommendations of the Parliament Standing Committee.

The Bill seeks to provide to beneficiaries rice at Rs. 3 per kg or wheat at Rs. 2 per kg or millets at Re. 1 per kg. Each beneficiary will be entitled to 5 kg of foodgrains per month at subsidised prices against 35 kg per household being provided now.

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