Mulayam supports food bill with riders

New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) Minutes after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi spoke on the food bill, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav expressed support for the legislation but with some reservations.

"Who will foot the financial burden for the states in implementing the bill? The centre should have convened a meeting of chief ministers on the bill before bringing it in parliament," he said as Lok Sabha discussed the legislation.

The Samajawadi Party chief, whose party provides the crucial support from outside to the ruling UPA, raised a number of questions over the bill and said it would badly hurt farmers as there was no guarantee in the provisions that all the produce would be bought by the government.

"The bill does not say that all of farmers' produce will be bought. Bring in the amendments for this," he said.

Taking a dig at the Congress, Mulayam Singh said: "The bill is aimed at elections. If they had wanted to do something for the people, they would have done it six months back."

He questioned whether the government had made any assessment about the number of poor in the country. "There is no mention in the bill... You don't have any figures. You are only going by assumptions," he said, adding that the bill could be brought only after the BPL census was completed.

The SP chief, whose party is in power in Uttar Pradesh and son Akhilesh is the chief minister, accused the central government of ignoring the states and violating their rights.

"How much will be the additional burden? Who will bear the additional burden? Will the Centre bear it? There is no mention in the bill," he said, adding that the states were already facing financial problems.

Declaring the Congress's goal to "wipe out hunger and malnutrition", Sonia Gandhi, who opened the debate on behalf of her party, earlier asked all political parties to set aside differences and support the bill so that a "big message" could be sent out about India's capabilities.

Bahujan Samaj Party leader Dara Singh Chauhan supported the bill saying it will help the governments address the problem of hunger in the country.

Chauhan, whose party also supports the UPA from outside, also congratulated Sonia Gandhi for speaking in Hindi.

Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad supported the food security bill asserting familes below the poverty line need to be taken care of.

"Families below the poverty line should be taken care of. Their situation has to be improved," he said.