In the backdrop of the BJP’s insistence to model the draft legislation on food security after the Chhattisgarh Food Security Act, the Congress Core Committee met on Friday to discuss strategies that would help the government pass the Bill without giving in to the Opposition’s “politically motivated demands”.
Food Minister K V Thomas, who has been running from pillar to post to see the Bill through, was called to brief the Congress on the various options available to the government. The options ranged from an executive order or ordinance route to a special session of Parliament.
Though Thomas had earlier categorically negated the possibility of a food ordinance, sources said he put all three options before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The pros and cons of the options were discussed, but no conclusive decision was reached.
“The final call will be taken by the Prime Minister and Congress president in a day or two,” sources said.
Both the law and food ministers are opposed to the proposal of bringing an ordinance to implement what is basically a rights issue, but it appears that the Congress high command “is unwilling either to delay or lose the centerpiece of the UPA-II’s agenda” to the Opposition’s thrust and parry.
The other consideration before the core committee is that the government badly needs a showpiece to give a good performance spin to the UPA-II’s report card release ceremony on May 22.
It is in this context that the possibility of bringing an executive order was discussed. However, such an order would mean that food security could only be implemented as a scheme and not as an Act of Parliament, which has its own sanctity.
The other option before the government is to call a special session of Parliament. However, there is a lot of resistance within the Congress on it as many feel the Opposition would try to waste the two-day session to target the Prime Minister over coalgate.
The final option is to wait till the Monsoon Session of Parliament. But the Congress top brass thinks it would be too late to pass Food Bill after August.
According to sources, an announcement on the Bill could be expected anytime next week -- either on May 22 or before.