New Delhi: The key opposition parties have extended qualified support for the National Food Security Bill, giving the Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) a window of opportunity to push ahead with the marquee legislation.
However, a meeting of the UPA coordination committee didn’t discuss the Bill, said parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath. The meeting considered last week’s attack by Maoists in Chhattisgarh that led to the deaths of several state Congress leaders and decided that an all-party meeting would be held later this week to finalize a strategy to resolve the problem.
After the coordination meeting, the government said all options were open on the issue of the food security Bill.
“We will be considering that further in the days to come,” Nath told reporters after the meeting that lasted an hour and a half.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, said they were in the favour of advancing the monsoon session of the Parliament scheduled to start next month, but seemed opposed to a special session to debate the food security legislation or introducing an ordinance to implement it.
The Communist Party of India (CPI), too, is in favour of such a legislation, but has sought changes in some provisions. The Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), a key ally of the BJP, also said on Monday that it favoured the Bill “in principle”, but added that additional costs in its implementation should not be borne by resource-hit states.
“They can advance the monsoon session, but there is no point in holding a special session on it,” CPM politburo member S. Ramachandran Pillai said. “As far as bringing in an ordinance is concerned, it is such an important Bill that it should be brought to the House and be discussed. There should not be any ordinance,” he said.
The Congress on Monday, however, refused to comment on whether the government was considering an ordinance.
“The Congress party is committed to bring the Bill to Parliament. What is the modus operandi adopted to bring the Bill to Parliament will be finalized by the government,” Shakeel Ahmed, a Congress spokesperson, told reporters on Monday.
The Bill, seen as one of the key planks of the UPA once implemented, was introduced in the budget session of Parliament, but was not passed by either of the two Houses.
The Congress party is keen on winning approval for the Bill, which seeks to provide 5kg of foodgrain per person per month to 67% of the population at Rs.1 to Rs.3 per kg, ahead of the general election next year.
“We are ready for a debate on the food security and land acquisition Bills. We want these Bills passed with some amendments. The monsoon session (should) be advanced for this,” BJP president Rajnath Singh told reporters in Hyderabad. He, however, said the party was opposed to the idea of an ordinance being issued on the Bill.
“We are very much for a legislation which will ensure right to food security. We are not opposed to the idea of having a food security law,” CPI national secretary D. Raja told reporters in Bhubaneswar, adding, however, that the Bill in its current form was “defective and unacceptable”.
While favouring the legislation drafted by the Union government, Bihar chief minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar dismissed speculation that the ruling Congress may electorally gain from the Bill ahead of elections next year.
PTI contributed to this story.