Congress, BJP playing ‘rice politics’ in Chhattisgarh

November 11th, 2008 - 6:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Raipur, Nov 11 (IANS) Rice politics is being played out in poll-bound Chhattisgarh as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress try to outdo each other, promising heavily subsidised rice as their last bait to woo voters.Chhattisgarh, with a population of 20.08 million, has about 50 percent people living below the poverty line (BPL).

The Congress, desperate to stage a comeback, promised in its manifesto released Nov 7 to provide 35 kg rice to all sections, except for income tax payers, at just Rs.2 per kg if voted to power.

The move is basically aimed to counter the BJP government’s existing scheme, 35 kg rice a month at Rs.3 a kg to about 3.6 million BPL families.

Since the state faces migration of thousands of poor people mainly from the vast southern Bastar and northern Surguja regions annually to other states and metros in search of jobs, the Congress’ Rs.2 a kg rice announcement sent the BJP into a tizzy.

The BJP, which is doing everything possible to retain its rule in the mineral rich state, came out with another plan.

In its manifesto Nov 10, the party promised to provide rice for just Rs.1 a kg to 700,000 Antyodaya cardholders (the poorest of poor) and Rs.2 a kg to all BPL families.

The scheme, Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), was launched in 2001 by the central government for the poorest of the poor households from the BPL category. Wheat is given to them at Rs.2 per kg and rice at Rs.3 per kg.

Justifying the new rice scheme, Chief Minister Raman Singh told IANS: “The BJP does not believe in playing politics with poor people. The Rs.3 a kg scheme for BPL families launched by my government in January with an estimated annual outlay of Rs.837 crore (Rs.8.37 billion), is purely aimed to make the state migration free and tackle poverty.”

Congress working president Satyanarayan Sharma countered with: “If the BJP really believes in serving people then it should explain why it launched the rice scheme in an election year though it came to power in December 2003.”

“People know the character of the BJP, if it does something for people, it’s surely for some gain and not to serve them. The people will teach the BJP a lesson in this election,” Sharma remarked.

Lekhan Sahu, 55, a poor farmer of Arang constituency in Raipur district, commented: “Both the parties are vying with each other for a cheaper rice scheme only for votes. But it will really help the thousands of poor families in the state to get rice at either Rs.1 or 2 per kg, while in the market it is available for Rs.20 or more.”

First phase of polling is being held in Chhattisgarh Nov 14 for 39 seats, and Nov 20 for the remaining 51 segments.

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