New Delhi: With its ambitious food security plan being labelled as a `populist vote-catching scheme` by the opposition, the government has dared BJP to declare that it was against cheaper food for the poor, claiming that the saffron party was stuck to mandir-masjid as a poll issue.
Asserting that all government schemes are supposed to be for the masses, Union Minister Sachin Pilot also said Indians have moved beyond mandir-masjid issues and even BJP remembers them only before the elections.
"BJP can say what it wants. But let it come out and say that they do not want to give cheaper food to the people. They never say it because they can`t," Pilot said.
The comments come in the midst of opposition criticism that the government brought in an ordinance for Food Security Bill as part of its preparations for the general elections.
BJP leader and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said yesterday that the Centre was under the impression that merely bringing in the Bill would lead to food reaching the needy.
"It is amazing, how some people are saying that the Right to Food programme is a populist scheme and it is a vote catching scheme measure.
"What scheme of the government is not for the masses of this country? Which scheme is anti-people? There is nothing wrong if we want to give people good highways, good roads, good ports, good education, good food and good electricity," the Corporate Affairs Minister told in an interview here.
"If we are giving cheaper food to poor people, why is it bothering anybody? I challenge any political party to come and say that this is wrong thing to do," he said.
The programme gives the nation`s two-thirds population the right to get 5 kgs food grains per month at highly subsidised rates of Rs 1-3 per kg. The government would require 62 million tonnes of food grains to implement this programme, costing the exchequer Rs 1,25,000 crore annually.
"Elections come and go. What is more important is to make sure that we are giving the Indian people the best possible economy. Everything is not done for elections," Pilot said.
Asked whether the elections should be fought on issues like mandir-masjid, Godhra or on issues like development, he said it is BJP that is in the habit of raising mandir-masjid issues every time before the elections.
"I think Indian people have moved on from mandir-masjid issues, whether Ram Lalla was born here or two kilometres away, and what type of temple was built or should be built.
"BJP was there for six years in government and (Lal Krishna) Advani was the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of the country. We did not see any effort on that front at that time.
"Mandir comes to their mind only when they want to please the RSS cadre before the elections. Once the elections are over, these issues go away.
"Modi talks about governance, but his aides and party talk about Ram Mandir. This is double speak. How come we never heard about Ram Mandir in last four years?," Pilot asked.
The 36-year-old Lok Sabha MP from Ajmer in Rajasthan said that the Congress-led UPA government has given nine years of stable government and there is one more year before it.
"We will finish the task at hand. We will and we have delivered on many of these path-breaking legislations that are going to change the face of this country. Whether it is right to education, right to information, right to work and now the right to food," he said.
Asked whether UPA expects to benefit from food security and direct benefit transfer schemes in the next elections, as it got from job guarantee and farm loan waiver programmes in previous elections, Pilot said these measures are part of the government`s commitments and not for political benefits.