As a divided Union Cabinet shunned the ordinance route on the food bill issue, Congress today said no option is ruled out over the legislation, though it would "prefer" its passage by Parliament.
"We would like this bill preferably passed by Parliament, but no option is ruled out," party spokesman Shakeel Ahmed told reporters.
He hoped that there would be further consensus on the watershed legislation among all political parties and that it will be passed in the coming session of Parliament.
His remarks came close on the heels of government announcing plans to convene a special session of Parliament for passage of the ambitious measure which is seen as a gamechanger by the party in the Lok Sabha polls not far away.
Earlier in the day, a meeting of the Cabinet could not arrive at a decision on bringing an ordinance to implement UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's pet programme and instead decided to court Opposition parties for passage of the bill in a special Parliament session.
Noting that the Congress was committed for the bill, Ahmed said that no option is ruled out if there was no consensus and Parliament remained paralysed due to disruptions.
He brushed aside questions that government deferred the issue of ordinance following threat by SP of withdrawal of support.
The bill was tabled in the Budget session of Parliament but could not be taken up for discussion due to pandemonium in the Lok Sabha over various scams.
The bill aims to give legal rights to 67 per cent of the population over a uniform quantity of 5 kg foodgrains at a fixed price of Rs 1-3 per kg through ration shops.
Ahmed said that "Ordinance is not ruled out as an option" if efforts to reach consensus to pass the food security bill do not fructify.
"But our first priority is to build consensus on it.
After discussion, the Cabinet has decided that we will talk to all parties and try to build a consensus. The government has showed that it has immense faith in democratic values.
"We are happy that the government is going to talk to different political parties to pass the bill. We do hope that the bill will be passed in the coming session," Ahmed said.
He also contended that "government never said categorically that we will bring an ordinance", a remark that was countered by reporters during the briefing, who cited yesterday's statements of Food Minister K B Thomas and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath in this regard.
"A political call has been taken on this (bringing an Ordinance to Food Bill). This is an important legislation.
Discussions have been made at different levels and there is consensus. The Bill is coming for discussion before the Cabinet tomorrow," Thomas had said yesterday.
Asked if all allies especially NCP are on board on this issue, Thomas said, "Everybody in UPA government are together for Food Bill Ordinance."
Nath had also rejected the criticism of government on the issue of bringing an ordinance and put the blame for it on the Opposition. He said notwithstanding Ordinance, there will be debate when the Ordinance goes to Parliament in Monsoon session.
"We will have a debate but why should we delay it even by a day....Parliament session is six to seven weeks away. We should not lose six to seven weeks," he had reasoned.
Ahmed, however, rejected the contention that the government withdrew under any pressure. "If the government bulldozes something, then you will accuse that the government did not follow democratic process.
"Now you are accusing the government of succumbing to pressure, when we are talking of taking all parties on board," he said.