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Food security bill tabled in Parliament

A war of words broke out between the Congress and the opposition over the National Food Security Bill that the government tried its best to debate in the Lok Sabha and get passed Monday.

The opposition continued to disrupt the house over the coal blocks allocation issue as Food Minister K.V. Thomas moved the bill, saying it was a key UPA legislation that would give the right to subsidised grain to around 67 percent of the population.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said it would not allow any important bill to be passed amidst the din.

"The way the government tried to pass the Food Security Bill today is an attempt to divert attention from the corruption of their ministers," Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj told reporters.

"We want a debate on important bills like the Food Security Bill and Land Acquisition Bill. But when the situation in parliament is so tense that there is a demand for the resignation of the prime minister and other ministers, trying to get the bill passed in the din in condemnable," she added.

"If the government tries to pass the bills in the din, the opposition will protest," she added.

Reacting to the opposition charges, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath asked the BJP not to "lecture" the Congress on corruption and said Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Law Minister Ashwani Kumar would not resign.

"There is no question of their resignation. Did Nitin Gadkari resign as president of the BJP? The BJP should not give us lectures on such matters. Our government knows what is to be done and if there is any indictment, we will certainly take action," Nath said.

"As far as the law minister is concerned, the Supreme Court will be hearing the case day after tomorrow (Wednesday). It has already filed an affidavit," he said.

The law minister has been charged with interfering in a CBI report on the allocation of coal blocks.

"As far as the railway minister is concerned, if something emerges during investigation, the Congress will take steps," the minister said.

Bansal's nephew Vijay Singla was arrested last week by the CBI for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs.90 lakh. Bansal has issued a statement distancing himself from the incident.

Introducing the food bill in the House, Thomas said under it, a beneficiary would get five kg grain per month at the rate of Rs.3 per kg of rice, Rs.2 per kg of wheat and Re.1 per kg of coarse grains.

He said it was a key UPA legislation that would give the right to subsidised grains to around 67 percent of the population.

Amid the din, Trinamool Congress member Dinesh Trivedi supported the legislation by saying it was "the most crucial bill".

"It is unfortunate that we can't debate the bill," he said.

Nationalist Congress Party member Sanjay Naik said: "Our party supports the bill."

Congress member Sanjay Nirupam took a dig at the opposition, saying "they have no concern for the poor, who would benefit from the food bill".

His party colleague Bhakta Charan Das said the bill was part of the Congress manifesto in the 2009 general election.

The government had tried to take up the bill last week also but could not as opposition members disrupted the house, demanding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation over the coal blocks issue.

Girija Vyas, who was in the chair, then adjourned the house till Tuesday.

"We understand parliamentary principles. We don't need lectures or (anyone) to preach what is parliamentary procedure. Parliament is for every political party. This is not a BJP house, it is a house of every MP who has been elected," he added.

However, the BJP, Samajwadi Party and Akali Dal members disrupted the house over separate issues.