Congress discusses passing of food security bill

New Delhi, June 1 (IANS) With its flagship National Food Security Bill stuck in parliament, the Congress’ core committee Saturday deliberated on ways to get it passed by convening a special session, party sources said.

The core group, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, decided to further deliberate on the bill during the coordination meeting of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Monday, the sources said.

It was also decided that Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath would hold consultations with all political parties on holding a special session to pass the Food Security Bill. An all-party meeting may also be called by June 7 to evolve consensus on it.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmed Patel attended the core committee meeting, which lasted for over three hours.

The bill, which promises cheap ration to around 67 percent of India’s 1.2 billion population numbering around 800 million people, was introduced in the second half of parliament’s budget session, which ended May 8.

The government had started a debate but it remained inconclusive as the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not allow parliament to run while demanding the prime minister’s resignation over the coal blocks allocations case.

The bill is the UPA’s showpiece legislation for the 2014 general elections.

As the UPA-II celebrated its fourth anniversary May 22, Sonia Gandhi blamed the BJP for obstructing parliament while appealing them to cooperate in passing the bill in public interest.

The prime minister too had reiterated the government’s committment to the right to food bill, and said options would be explored for its passage.

Though a section in the government wants an ordinance to be introduced to implement the provisions of the bill, party sources said it was not practical as there were a large number of amendments in it, and that the states would have a key role in implementing it.

According to the sources, the Congress top leadership also reviewed the vexed Telangana issue and the threat to quit the party issued by its leaders in Andhra Pradesh.

Two MPs and party leader K. Keshava Rao have threatened to leave Congress and join the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti.

The core group was briefed by the home minister on the May 25 Maoist attack in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh in which the top leadership of Congress was wiped out, and security measures being adopted to deal with the Maoist issue.

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