Ruling Congress, opposition BJP trade charges as rice politics in Karnataka heats up

Bengaluru:┬áThe rice politics in Karnataka heated up with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah accusing the Centre of creating obstacles to supply rice for its poll guarantee of 10 kilograms rice to each member of the BPL family under the ‘Anna Bhagya’ scheme.

Siddaramaiah said Karnataka is not demanding rice for free as the state is ready to purchase it.

To this, the state unit of the BJP hit back saying Siddaramaiah was intentionally creating confusion whereas the fact was that the Centre had promised to give only 5 kg rice free of cost, which it is doing.

BJP stalwart and former chief minister B S Yediyurappa warned that his party will not accept if the Congress government gave even “one gram less” than the promised 10 kg rice under the ‘Anna Bhagya’ scheme.

CM Siddaramaiah alleged: “The Central government is doing politics. We had written to them (Food Corporation of India) on June 9 that they should give us 2.28 lakh metric tonne rice. They answered on June 12 that they will supply the same. However, on June 14, the MD and the chairman of the Food Corporation of India wrote to us that it cannot give us rice.”

“What should we conclude if they agree on June 12 saying that they have seven lakh metric tonne of rice and later deny that they don’t have rice?” Siddaramaiah questioned.

When asked why he should not speak to the Union Minister for Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal, Siddaramaiah said if the FCI officials had told him to speak to the minister then he would have done that.

“But when the FCI officials had agreed for rice, why should I speak to others? They are giving an excuse today that we did not speak to him (Goyal),” the Chief Minister charged.

He emphasised that technicalities should not be important for a programme meant for poor people. “Why creating obstacles in poor people’s programme?” he sought to know.

To a question whether he would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Siddaramaiah said his visit to Delhi is on June 21 when Modi will not be in town and hence the meeting will not happen. However, he expressed his wish to meet the Prime Minister once Modi returns from the foreign trip.

Regarding procurement of rice directly from the other states, Siddaramaiah said Andhra Pradesh did not reply yet whether they can provide rice to Karnataka. Speaking to Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao in this regard did not yield any result either.

“However, the Chhattisgarh government has said they will supply 1.5 lakh metric tonne. They said they can’t supply 2.28 lakh metric tonne rice. The rate they are offering is also bit higher,” he pointed out.

When asked why rice should not be procured from the farmers of Karnataka, Siddaramaiah said the ‘Sona Masuri’ rice grown in Raichur is sold at Rs 55 per kg, which the state cannot afford to buy and give to the poor people.

“The FCI authorities charge Rs 34 per kg along with Rs 2.6 per kg as transportation cost. Thus, it costs us Rs 36.6. The five kg rice costs us Rs 36.6 per kg,” he explained.

To a question on BJP leaders’ suggestion to procure rice from Karnataka’s farmers, Siddaramaiah said instead of giving him advice, they should put pressure on the Central government to provide rice to the state.

“If they are really interested in the welfare of the people, if they have concern for economically weaker section, then they should ask the Centre to stop politics and give us rice,” he said.

Karnataka Food and Civil Supplies Minister K H Muniyappa told reporters in Bengaluru that Chhattisgarh was ready to supply rice and he asked the state government officials to start correspondence with them.

Along with that, Karnataka is also in touch with the Central Warehousing Corporation, National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) and National Cooperative Consumer Federation (NCCF) that have been supplying rice, he added.

“We will give them (Central government institutions) opportunity after finalising the rate to supply us rice,” he said.

Former chief minister Yediyurappa came down heavily on the Congress government for the rice conundrum. “The Congress party is trying to create confusion intentionally. Already, the Central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is giving 5 kg rice free of cost (to each member of the family),” he said.

“The Centre had not agreed to give additional rice. It is the responsibility of the state government. The promise of giving additional 5 kg rice by purchasing it should be fulfilled. People will not accept foodgrain less than even by a gram. I stress that they should fulfil their promises,” the veteran BJP leader added.

He said it was not proper to blame the Central government without any reason. “Modi had never ever said that he will give additional rice. Already, Modi is giving 5 kg rice free of cost,” he pointed out.

He asked Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar not to create any confusion and get rice from wherever it was possible to give 10 kg rice to the BPL families.

Siddaramaiah’s immediate predecessor Basavaraj Bommai too slammed the Congress government in the state saying that it was going back on its poll promise. He also predicted that the Congress government’s popularity will not last longer.

“Congress should have made some alternative arrangements for rice. They are making lame excuse that they are not getting rice. It means that they are going back on their poll promise. Now, they are saying that they are trying to get rice from Chhattisgarh. It is enough for us if poor people are benefitted,” Bommai said.