Anna Bhagya crisis: Not demanding rice for free, asserts Siddaramaiah as BJP accuses him of creating confusion

Regarding procuring rice directly from the other states, Siddaramaiah said there were no positive responses except from Chhattisgarh.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jun 18, 2023 | 10:17 PM Updated Jun 18, 2023 | 10:18 PM

Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah. (Supplied)

The rice politics in Karnataka heated up on Sunday, 18 June, with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah continuing to accuse the Union government of creating obstacles to supply rice for its poll guarantee of 10 kg of rice to each member of BPL families under the “Anna Bhagya” scheme.

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

Related: Siddaramaiah ‘blatantly misleading’ people by blaming Centre: BJP

‘Why should I speak to others?’

The chief minister and his Cabinet ministers alleged that the Union government discontinued the sale of wheat and rice under OMSS for state governments a day after the FCI — which has ample stocks — agreed to provide 2,08,425.750 metric tonnes of rice to Karnataka at a rate of ₹34 per kg.

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

He continued: “What should we conclude, since they agreed on 12 June saying that they had seven lakh metric tonnes of rice and later said that they didn’t have rice?”

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, he would have done that.

“But when the FCI officials had agreed to supply 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 21 June when Modi will not be in town and hence the meeting will not happen.

However, he wished to meet the Prime Minister once Modi returns from the foreign trip.

Regarding the 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, he said.

Also read: Narendra Modi government stops FCI from selling rice to states

‘Chhattisgarh agreed’

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

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

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

Siddaramaiah also said instead of giving him advice like this, BJP leaders should put pressure on the Union 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 KH Muniyappa has also told reporters in Bengaluru that Chhattisgarh was ready to supply rice and he asked the state government officials to start correspondence with them.

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

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

BJP hits back

The Karnataka BJP on Sunday hit back at Siddaramaiah, saying he was intentionally creating confusion when the fact was that the Centre had promised to give only 5 kg rice free of cost, which it was doing.

BJP stalwart and former Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa warned that his party would not tolerate it if the Congress government gave even even “one gram less” than the promised 10 kg rice under the “Anna Bhagya” scheme.

“The Congress 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 an additional 5 kg of rice by purchasing it should be fulfilled. People will not accept food grain less than even by a gram. I stress that they should fulfil their promises,” the veteran BJP leader added.

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

He urged Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar to avoid creating 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 also 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 would not last long.

“The Congress should have made some alternative arrangements for rice. They are making lame excuses 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.

Also read: Karnataka delays application acceptance for Gruha Lakshmi Yojana

(With PTI inputs)