Food bill is Congress cannon to counter opposition

New Delhi, May 7 (IANS) Realising that passage of the food security and land acquisition bills would be difficult with the BJP not letting parliament function till tainted ministers Pawan Kumar Bansal and Ashwani Kumar were removed, the Congress Tuesday accused the opposition of being anti-poor.

“Both bills are pro-poor and pro-farmer. Most of the issues in the bills have been settled at different stages of discussion. I appeal to the BJP and other parties to pass the bills. They should act like a responsible opposition,” Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit told reporters here.

“The Left parties are also opposing the bills along with the BJP,” he said.

The BJP did not allow parliament to function, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks and removal of his Railway Minister Bansal and Law Minister Ashwani Kumar from the cabinet.

Suggesting a quid pro quo, the BJP said it will help pass the two bills provided the two ministers were removed.

“When they will be removed from the council of ministers or resign, only then will we let parliament function and allow the food security bill and the land acquisition bill to be passed,” BJP leader Gopinath Munde told reporters here.

The Congress rejected the deal.

“The resignations of the ministers are not connected to the bills. If they pass the bills, other political issues can be sorted out separately,” said Dikshit.

On its part, the government, which initiated a debate on the food security bill Monday in the Lok Sabha, tried to resume it Tuesday amid din but did not succeed.

Congress member Bhakta Charan Das stood up to continue his speech but could not as the house was adjourned for the day.

Congress managers said they wanted to pass the bills and would pursue this in the house Wednesday also.

The Congress expects a big booster from its projected good show in the Karnataka assembly polls and feels a drubbing at the hustings would make the BJP less adamant.

Congress insiders said they were open to passing the bills in the din but the point of concern was the large number (71) of amendments that the government has proposed in the food security bill, as all of them have to be passed separately.

“We can pass the bill in the din by voice vote. The only problem would be if an opposition member asks for a division,” said a Congress leader.

He said any opposition member can do that only from their allotted seat and not while protesting near the speaker’s podium.

“We will see how the situation unfolds in the house,” he said.

A section of Congress leaders said that if the food security bill does not get through in the budget session — which ends May 10 — it might be taken up in the monsoon session scheduled in July-Aug or the government may bring it in the form of an ordinance before that.

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