The much-touted food security bill, the pet welfare legislation of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, could not be passed in the Lok Sabha this week because of poor floor management by the ruling party’s managers and an aggressive opposition that cornered the government on the missing files relating to the allocation of coal blocks, political sources say.
Even after much hype that the bill would be passed Aug 20, the birth anniversary of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, the goal could not be achieved.
The suddenness with which the BJP raised the case of the missing files and demanded a clarification by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the house stunned the Congress floor managers who had thought they would be able to take up the food bill.
Sensing an opportunity to corner the government, even the Left parties and the Janata Dal-United supported Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj seeking the prime minister’s statement on the missing files.
The government hopes the issue would be resolved Monday when the prime minister is expected to make a statement in the Rajya Sabha but the opposition may yet again find fault with it and carry on blocking the food bill.
The Congress has sensed the game plan and can only hope the legislation gets through in this session, which ends Aug 30.
“We did not think so earlier. But it looks like that the opposition parties are playing politics over the food bill,” Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit told reporters.
“Parties are looking at reasons not to pass the food bill. Their main aim is not to let the food bill pass,” he added.
Another indicator of the opposition’s game plan to block the bill is that while the Lok Sabha has barely functioned since the session began Aug 5, the Rajya Sabha has by and large been functioning and has even passed a slew of bills.
The food bill is in the lower house; hence it makes sense for the opposition to disrupt it, said a Congress leader.
The possibility of the bill not getting through in the session is not ruled out with only four working days remaining next week. The Congress is prepared for the worst, sources indicated.
Sonia Gandhi had already launched the subsidised foodgrain scheme Aug 20 in Delhi. More Congress-ruled states would follow suit in the coming days and the party would take the issue to the people, saying it tried its best to pass the right to food bill but the opposition played spoilsport.
The bill, which replaces an ordinance promulgated July 5, can still be taken up in the winter session of parliament scheduled for November-December.
Another view in the Congress is that the ordinance, which was withdrawn before the bill was introduced, can be re-promulgated before the bill is taken up in the winter session.