Cong govt's free rice scheme sets off a political slugfest in K'taka

Cong govt's free rice scheme sets off a political slugfest in K'taka

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Congress with BJP flag.

M.K. ASHOKA

Bengaluru, June 18 (IANS) Karnataka is witnessing a political high drama between ruling Congress party and opposition BJP over distribution of free rice to the poor.
On one hand, the ruling Congress party has given a call of state-wide protest on June 30 condemning the move of BJP-led central government's refusal to sell rice for Karnataka. On the other hand, BJP has stated that if the free rice scheme is not implemented in the state from July 1, the party will launch large-scale agitation.
The sources in the Karnataka government stated that the Anna Bhagya scheme, one of the five major guarantees assured by the Congress, will take some time to take off.
The Congress government has implemented the scheme of free bus travel for women. Applications have been invited from the beneficiaries to avail the schemes of free power up to 200 units and Rs 2,000 allowance to women heads exempting tax payers.
Sources in both parties explain that the political drama is created by both the parties in the backdrop of upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Congress, which has earned goodwill from the people following implementation of the free bus scheme and announcement of other four guarantees, seeks to blame the Centre over the free rice programme.
The statements of depriving the poor of their food or stealing the poor man's food are given with a clear intent to damage the image of BJP further which is still waiting for a momentum after the drubbing in the assembly elections.
Karnataka Congress President and Dy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar had given a call to the party workers to stage a protest in all district headquarters on June 20, condemning the move of the central government to refuse to sell rice to Karnataka.
"The Food Corporation of India (FCI), which promised supply of rice, now had written a letter refusing it. This is an example of the practising of hate politics by the central government. BJP has snatched the food of the poor. BJP is a party which indulges in betrayal of poor masses," the state Congress has charged.
The FCI had promised to provide 2.28 lakh metric tonne rice in the letter, but it has gone back on their words, claimed Congress. The claim was challenged by the BJP national general secretary C.T. Ravi who asked Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to show the letter of commitment by the FCI in this regard.
Siddaramaiah in turn had posted the letter of commitment by the FCI and urged C.T. Ravi to stop politics over the issue and pressurise the central government to provide rice.
Shivakumar stated, "We are being threatened by the central government and we will fight it. The protest is staged to get attention of the central government and people over the issue," he said.
The saffron party, already struggling to usher new spirit into demoralizsd cadres of the party, seeks to blame the Congress over its failure to provide free 10 kilograms of rice. The Congress leaders are not only attacking the state leadership, they are also targeting the BJP top leaders.
Karnataka Minister for Cooperation K.N. Rajanna questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making the announcement of putting Rs 15 lakh into bank accounts of every individual. The minister made the statement to counter BJP leaders in the state questioning the Congress on announcing the free rice scheme without discussing it with the central government.
When PM Modi made an announcement of depositing Rs 15 lakh to all accounts, did he take permission? Rajanna reiterated.
"The Congress does not need to discuss with the FCI and announce schemes. Will they give it free of cost? We are going to pay money and make a purchase," he said.
Former Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has slammed and warned the Congress government that if the free rice scheme is not implemented by July, the BJP will launch a protest in the state.
"The state government has continued the 'dhoka' series. The statements of CM Siddaramaiah blaming the central government is nothing but betrayal to the people," he said.
"They have not kept the word given to the BPL card holders and the poor. Siddaramaiah has stated that the central government is bringing politics in the free rice distribution scheme. But, the Centre has been providing free 5 kilograms of rice to all states under the Food Security Act," Bommai said.
"Along with the cost of rice, the Centre is also providing the expenses of the transportation which will come up to Rs 3 per kilogram. CM Siddaramaiah claims that his government is giving 10 kilograms of rice, but it includes five kilograms of rice given by the central government, Bommai claimed.
If the Congress government was serious about the implementation of the scheme, it should have spoken to the Centre. The Congress would not have been wasting time in getting publicity, he said.
"The Centre will decide after taking the future situation into consideration. The decision was taken in the backdrop of lack of rainfall and to ensure there is no good shortage," Bommai claimed.
Karnataka Minister for Home G. Parameshwara reacted strongly, stating that the state is not under the mercy of central government and they need not wait for the consent but implement the schemes as announced.
"Karnataka political scenario is going to heat up in the coming days as BJP and Congress are in confrontation mode on various issues. Both parties are aiming to show another as a villain of the poor masses for political mileage in the case of the free rice scheme. Fingers are crossed over the turn of events in the coming days in the state," sources explained.

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