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Cabinet may take up food ordinance today

The cabinet is expected to take up the proposed food security ordinance Wednesday, informed sources Tuesday.

According to sources, the cabinet may either consider passing the ordinance or calling a special session of parliament to pass the National Food Security Bill, which is held up in parliament.

Facing opposition from allies and opposition parties like the Samajwadi Party, the Left parties and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had June 13 deferred a proposal to consider the ordinance route to give effect to the bill for its passage in parliament.

The prime minister deferred the ordinance, saying many political parties had suggested a debate on the bill in parliament.

While the prime minister asked Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath to hold a fresh round of consultations with the opposition parties to evolve a consensus on the bill, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram hinted at a special session for the purpose.

The monsoon session, which is likely to start in July third week, could be pushed to the first week of August, said government sources.

The BJP did not allow parliament to debate the bill during the budget session that ended May 8 and sought the prime minister's resignation over faulty coal blocks allocations.

The bill aims to provide subsidised food grain to around 67 percent of India's 1.2 billion people. Around 800 million people would thus get the subsidised food grain at an initial cost of around Rs.1.3 lakh crore.

It is seen as a big-ticket legislation of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government and could prove to be a game-changer ahead of the 2014 general elections.