In Karnataka, the recently elected Congress government has met its first roadblock in governance as the state does not have enough rice to support a poll promise.
Before coming to power, the Congress had promised 10 kg of rice to each family which falls Below the Poverty Line (BPL) under Anna Bhagya Scheme. However, one month after Siddaramaiah took oath as the chief minister of the state, the scheme has not taken off.
According to sources in the government, the shortage of rice which the Centre has not mitigated has prevented the benefit reaching BPL families. Here's all you need to know about the tug-of-war between Karnataka government and the Centre.
Why Are Karnataka & Centre Locking Horns Over Rice? Here's All You Need to Know
How Much Rice Is Available and What's Needed?
The previously elected state government led by the BJP had been providing 5 kg of rice to BPL families. The Congress doubled this share.
Hence, the government needs 4.45 lakh metric tonnes of rice to float the Anna Bhagya Scheme even though the state has only 2.17 lakh metric tonnes of the grain. The state has asked 2.28 lakh metric tonnes from the Centre's Food Corportation of India (FCI). While the FCI agreed to partially meet the requirement, according to the Siddaramaiah government, it backtracked. This made the CM issue a statement that the Centre has "played politics" and denied the Congress government a chance to fulfill its promise.
The CM then wrote to several states including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, and Chhattisgarh. These efforts too have not materialised. Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao informed Siddaramaiah that his state does not have enough rice to spare. The same was the case with Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. While Chhattisgarh did have enough rice, the transportation costs were unaffordable.
Tiff With BJP and AAP
As the Congress government is scrambling to meet the rice requirement, Union Minister for Food and Civil Supplies Piyush Goyal has asked the state to purchase rice from the open market. Meaning the scheme's budget will have to go up.
While the state government maintained that the Centre has failed to help them, Goyal claimed the FCI denied Karnataka's request to prevent rice prices from skyrocketing in the open market. Goyal claimed that it's not just Karnataka's request that was denied by the FCI as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh too were denied rice from the FCI stock.
While Siddaramaiah reached out to Punjab for rice, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the state has accused Karnataka Congress of lackluster performance. The Congress government in the state was not prepared to handle the costs of the proposed scheme, Punjab's AAP leadership claimed.
For How Long Will the Scheme Be Delayed?
According to sources in the Karnataka government, the scheme will not be launched in July this year as was promised earlier.
"Unless we find enough rice for the right price to float the scheme, we will not launch it. However, the BPL families will continue to get the rice which they have been getting over the past many years," a source said. Meaning, BPL families will continue to get at least 5 kg of rice till Anna Bhagya is launched.
The government has maintained that the scheme will not be scrapped. "There is no question of scrapping the scheme just because the Centre has denied us food grain. We are committed to the people in the state and will make sure our promise is met. We will launch the scheme soon," a Congress leader said.
However, the BJP leadership in Karnataka has been reaping some political benefit out of the delay in the scheme's launch. Senior BJP leader Shobha Karandlaje accused the Congress government of "cheating the people of Karnataka with a false promise." "Either provide the rice or quit," she said.