The UPA government's food security bill, a key welfare plank that could give the ruling Congress much to show off, has found a timely challenger: the BJP's version of the law in Chhattisgarh.
This could set off a political scramble to earn plaudits for popular food handouts ahead of a general election.
As food minister KV Thomas on Wednesday told ministers from the states, whom he had invited for consultations, that the UPA would place its flagship National Food Security Bill before Parliament in the oncoming budget session, the BJP pitted its own version of the food law in Chhattisgarh against the UPA's.
Other states, mostly opposition-ruled, faulted the Centre's bill.
Despite the hostility, the UPA is likely get its food law passed in Parliament.
Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh on Wednesday wrote to the Prime Minister, asking him to ensure that the state should be free to decide how much of the population should be excluded, essentially arguing that his law was better.
The food security bill, which stems from a Congress poll promise, is the second of two large entitlement-based welfare legislations of the UPA government. The previous one, a popular rural pay-for-work scheme, had helped propel the coalition to a second term, analysts say.
At the consultation chaired by Thomas, states, such as Tamil Nadu, faulted the food security bill for keeping 33% of the population out, arguing instead for a food law open to all. The state, along with West Bengal, also opposed the UPA's much-touted direct money transfer in place of grains.
The national food security bill seeks to give about 800 million Indians, a legal right to monthly food handouts. The HT had first reported, on January 17, that the UPA government was likely to table the bill in the budget session.