'Rice politics' becomes major poll issue in Kerala

Last Updated 11 March 2011, 11:30 IST

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) committee that met Thursday evening accused the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) of scuttling of the scheme.

"Rice for Rs.2 per kg was hitherto available only to the below poverty line (BPL) category people and we extended it to all ration card holders. This has been opposed by the opposition, saying it was against the model code of conduct and the programme had to be stopped," said the LDF resolution.

Addressing reporters Friday, Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy said the UDF was not against the scheme, but only resented the LDF politicising it.

"Rice politics is not our creation. The Left government came out with it on the sly. The scheme came into effect Feb 25. We are not against this scheme, we only opposed the manner in which the government went about it," said Chandy.

The election commission blocked the implementation of the scheme March 7, saying it went against the model code of conduct that came into force when the commission March 1 announced the dates for the state assembly elections.

"The scheme says card holders need only to fill up the forms and hand it over to the ration shops. We have found that many who went to the ration shops did not get the form, but were told that the form was distributed through LDF party offices," Chandy said.

He added: "In several places LDF party workers were distributing the forms. The code of conduct violation came when they started announcements on the streets that rice was being made available at Rs.2 per kg."

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan has already written to the Chief Election Commissioner, resenting the ban.

Chandy alleged that Achuthanandan and Finance Minister Thomas Issac were taking people for a ride because the scheme will cost Rs.40 crore a month and no allocation has been made for it.

"Besides, they have also asked the ration wholesalers to lift the  stocks and said money would be paid to them by the government at a later date. Now, they are politicising the issue by claiming that we have scuttled this," added Chandy.

"Figures from the Food Corporation of India show that the state government has lifted only 5,836 tonnes of rice till yesterday (Thursday), while the total available stock for the month is 36,056 tonnes. This clearly shows that the Left government is interested in only publicity gimmicks," Chandy said.

The LDF launched the Rs.2 a kg rice scheme for a maximum of 17 kg  for four million card holders in the BPL category soon after the Left coalition came to power in 2006, replacing the existing Rs.3 a kg programme.

The assembly elections in Kerala will be held April 13.

(Published 11 March 2011, 11:30 IST)

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