A day after Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP and other opposition parties of creating roadblocks in passage of the Food Security Bill in Parliament,the Congress top leadership on Friday deliberated on the options available before the government,including taking the ordinance route to roll out the politically significant legislation or calling a special session of Parliament for its passage.
Sources said Food Minister K V Thomas made a presentation before the Congress core group attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party chief Sonia Gandhi outlining the options. Thomas also met Defence Minister A K Antony separately. Thomas is not keen on taking the ordinance route,but sources said some of the Congress ministers agree to the idea given the fact that elections to several key states are just months away.
That the party is keen to turn the tables on the BJP on the populist legislation became clear when Rahul targeted the BJP on Thursday,saying it was creating hindrances in the passage of the Bill. Sources said the Congress leadership discussed all the options,but did not arrive at any decision. All options were considered,but no decision was taken, a senior leader said.
The talk that the government may go for the ordinance route had gained momentum after its bid to push through the Bill in Parliament towards the fag end of the Budget session failed. Both Thomas and the Law Ministry,sources said,were not keen on taking the ordinance route to implement the legislation.
While the technical difficulties are surmountable,a section of the Congress leadership is keen that such a significant legislation be debated and passed with near consensus,especially so since it has to be implemented by the states. While the Centre will decide the percentage of population to be covered under the Act in each state,it is the states which will identify the beneficiaries.
Thomas himself believes the Bills spirit would be lost if it is implemented through an ordinance or executive order. Sources said he is inclined towards calling a special session for its early passage.
The Congress leadership wants to push through the legislation,which provides 67 per cent of the population a uniform monthly legal entitlement to 5 kg of food grains per person at a fixed price of Rs 1-3 per kg,well ahead of the general elections.