As a parliamentary vote on the National Food Security Ordinance nears, opposition parties have launched a blistering attack on what they believe to be rampant populism of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
“The government is doing irreparable damage to the India story through its fiscal profligacy,” wrote Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in a sternly worded letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “Therefore you must raise the quantity of subsidized food grain by 40% and sharply increase the number of people eligible for this subsidy.”
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Prakash Karat called for a hike in the monthly food entitlement from 6kg to 7kg of food per person. “We figured we could cause a crisis in capitalism by bankrupting the government. That would lead to the long-awaited revolutionary upsurge that we have worked so hard for. Or at least MN Roy did.”
“We demand the free distribution of 8 kg of food grain and pulses per person per month, and the programme’s coverage must rise from 67% to 78% of the population,” declared Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, once he heard Karat’s numbers. “And of course there need to be reservations for male OBCs in the distribution of subsidized food.”
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister leader Sukhbir Singh Badal demanded the removal of a provision for direct cash transfers in the food security ordinance arguing: “I’d rather just keep the cash. I mean benefits. That was off the record.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee demanded a sharp reduction in food subsidies once she heard that the Left had asked for an increase.