The Congress launched its ambitious food security programme in Delhi, Haryana and Uttarakhand on Tuesday, on the occasion of Rajiv Gandhi’s 69th birth anniversary, as the ordinance on the scheme is still in operation though the Lok Sabha once again failed to push the Bill through. Indeed, with the Opposition mounting an attack on the government on the missing files related to the coal blocks allocation scam, the subject was not even discussed in the House.

But if Delhi and Uttarakhand celebrated the start of the food security programme and Rajiv Gandhi’s birth anniversary together, Haryana appeared to mark the two occasions separately. While Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda — lately in the news for alleged favours to Robert Vadra, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law — launched the programme in Panipat, his rival Birender Singh addressed a political rally to commemorate Rajiv Gandhi’s birth anniversary at Jind. Those who attended the rally included not just Union Social Justice Minister Kumari Selja but also Congress general secretaries Digvijay Singh and Shakeel Ahmad and MP Shruti Choudhury.

This, Congress sources — with just the hint of irony — said, was not intended as a snub to Mr. Hooda, only a way of “balancing the political forces” in the State — after all, Mr. Birender Singh till earlier this year was a national general secretary and is now a member of the Congress Working Committee.

Meanwhile, for the Congress leadership, which is determined to pass the Food Security Bill, time is running out this session, which ends on August 30. Now, if the Bill is not legislated by then, the government will have two options — to re-promulgate the ordinance or revert to the Public Distribution System in the three Congress-ruled States, where the programme was inaugurated with much fanfare.

Indeed, Himachal Pradesh, which earlier thought of launching the programme on August 20, postponed it, saying “it won’t be appropriate to launch the scheme in a hurry.”

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