Cong campaign to project food bill as Centre's baby

Cong campaign to project food bill as Centre's baby

Move comes after some states claimed credit for MGNREGS

Cong campaign to project food bill as Centre's baby

Seeking to ensure that the Congress gets credit for the food security ordinance, senior leaders of the party will launch a campaign in all states to explain the government’s initiative to provide cheap food grains to over 70 crore people.

A team of party spokespersons and leaders will tour all  state capitals from next week to explain the intricacies of the Food Security Bill and underline that it was an initiative of the Union government and not that of the states.

“The spokespersons and leaders will address press conferences and brief state Congress units on the food security ordinance,” said Ajay Maken, AICC general secretary and Chairman of the party’s Communications Department.

The move to depute party leaders to popularise the scheme comes in the wake of some state governments claiming credit for the Centre’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) by giving different names to the programme.

Maken said the Congress-ruled states were already drawing up plans to implement the food security law and there was a need to popularise it in other states as well.

The “awareness campaign” will be carried out by AICC spokespersons Renuka Chowdhary, Bhakta Charan Das, Sandeep Dikshit, Meem Afzal and chief spokesperson of Bihar, Premchand Mishra, Madhya Pradesh Congress spokesman Mukesh Nayak and Haryana minister Randeep Surjewala.

Asked whether the thrust on publicity meant that the Congress was preparing for early elections, a senior party leader said “there is no such thing”.

The Congress is also drawing up plans to ensure effective implementation of the Food Security law and has called a meeting of Chief Ministers of party-ruled states and general secretaries on Saturday.

The meeting would be attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Defence Minister A K Antony, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Chief Ministers of 14 states where the Congress is in power or shares power with allies, all AICC General Secretaries.

The seriousness of the move clearly indicates the eagerness of the Congress to score over the opposition parties ahead of the Assembly elections to five key states later this year.

The Congress believes that the twin schemes of farm loan waiver and the ambitious rural jobs scheme – MGNREGS– were instrumental in its return to power at the Centre in 2009. The party hopes that the Food Bill, together with the direct benefits transfer scheme, will fetch rich electoral dividends in the Lok Sabha elections slated for next year.

The Food BIll ordinance seeks to give nation’s 67 per cent population the right to 5 kg of food grains every month at highly subsidised rates of Rs 1-3 per kg. The Centre will spend an estimated Rs 1,25,000 crore annually to supply 62 million tonnes of rice, wheat and coarse cereals.

The rules for implementation of the programme will be framed separately by the Centre and the respective state governments but the law will take precedence in states which have similar legislations.

At the same time, state governments are free to provide additional benefits to people over and above the Central law.

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