Govt takes ordinance route to push food security
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Weeks before the monsoon session of Parliament, the Union cabinet Wednesday approved the ordinance on the food security law, signalling that the UPA government was determined to force the issue on parties trying to block it and deny the ruling coalition a strong election plank.
While parties such as the SP have said they would oppose the ordinance, the government appeared to have gone ahead with the move after assurance of support from an unlikely quarter — the JD(U), which split from the NDA last month.
The food security ordinance gives two-thirds of the country's population the right to 5 kg of food grains per person every month at Rs 1-3 per kg. The Congress hopes to make this its key theme in the elections, although it will cost the government Rs 1.25 lakh crore per year. It will come into effect after the President signs the ordinance.
At Wednesday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took the unusual step of asking all cabinet ministers to speak on the ordinance — a move aimed at indicating the unanimity within the government. Everyone spoke in support, it is learnt.
NCP chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who was earlier apprehensive about the bill, also went along with the decision although he referred to concerns about increasing agriculture production.
The ordinance decision also suggests that the government could consider delaying the monsoon session of Parliament. Since there can be a gap of six months between two sessions of Parliament, the government can delay the session until the first week of November, although this has rarely happened.
It can either use this time to win over parties such as the SP to support the ordinance or call for elections by the end of the year.
UPA managers said they will not shy away from Parliament and the monsoon session would be held on schedule. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj questioned why the government had chosen the ordinance route and said this was a "deliberate attempt to denigrate Parliament".
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