Naveen’s Rs 1 a kg rice for fear of defeat in polls: Azad

Bhubaneswar: Terming announcement of Re one per kg rice in the state a desperate bid by BJD government to remain in power, Union Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad today claimed that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared such a populist scheme fearing defeat in next polls.

Noting that the CM had been in power for a long time, Azad wanted to know why the poor families were not given rice at the rate of Rs 1 a kg earlier.

"He (Naveen) should have done it within two years of returning to power. But, Naveen announced the scheme when he realised that he would lose in the next elections," Azad said.

"Rs 1 a kg rice is not at all his (Naveen) sympathy for poor, but for politics and votes. There is more politics behind cheap rice than sympathy and concern for poor," Azad told reporters at the sideline of a function in Cuttack.

AICC's Odisha in-charge Jagdish Tytler asked the CM to give credit to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for enabling him to announce such a cheap rice scheme.

"The Centre has been sending rice and funds for distribution of cheap rice in the state. Naveen's sole aim is to capture vote by misleading people," Tytler said.

The ruling BJD, on the other hand, rejected Azad and Tytler's allegation by saying that Naveen Patnaik was ahead of Congress leaders.

"You (Congress leaders) are unable to give cheap rice to people. It is Naveen Patnaik who implemented the cheap rice scheme of poor families," said food and supplies minister P K Deb.

Deb also raised question on UPA government's bid to bring Food Security Bill in Parliament in the budget session. "Is it (brining Food Security Bill) not an attempt to woo voters before the coming elections," the minister asked.

Defending the state government, parliamentary affairs minister Kalpataru Das said, "Cheap rice scheme is not new for the chief minister. He had announced Re two a kg rice in 2008 and now he reduced the price to Re one a kg," Das pointed out.

Earlier, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Niranjan Patnaik had claimed that the Congress in its manifesto in 2009 had promised to give Re one a kg rice if it returned to power.

"Naveen has taken the idea of Re one a kg rice from Congress manifesto," Patnaik claimed.