The Congress party, which has promised subsidised rice in its manifesto for the Lok Sabha poll, is "imitating" the scheme that helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retain power in Chhattisgarh, says Chief Minister Raman Singh.
"The Congress is imitating the BJP's Rs 3-a-kg successful rice scheme for electoral gains," Singh said.
"The Congress was highly critical of my decision when the Chhattisgarh government launched a scheme in April 1, 2007, to provide 35 kg of rice every month to 3.7 million families at Rs 3 a kg. Now the party is copying my scheme to gain advantage in the Lok Sabha polls," Singh told IANS in an interview at his official residence.
The Congress in its manifesto released in New Delhi on March 24 says it will enact a law to provide 25 kg rice or wheat every month at Rs 3 a kg to families living below the poverty line.
A similar scheme, known as the Chief Minister's Food Assistance Scheme in Chhattisgarh, was the brainchild of Singh and was widely credited for the BJP retaining power in the state in the November assembly polls.
"I launched the scheme with the concept that everyone deserves the right to food and it is the government's responsibility to ensure food security," claimed Singh, a 56-year-old ayurveda doctor-turned-politician who has headed the BJP government in the state since December 2003.
The scheme is in phase-II now and available to 3.7 million families that form about 70 per cent of state's total 20.08 million population, he said.
"The scheme was launched as the government's big fight against starvation and malnutrition," he said.
The BJP government announced in February that the food scheme would be converted into a Rs 2 a kg plan from April 2009. For 700,000 Antodaya scheme card holders it will be offered at just Rs 1. But the announcement has been put on hold as the model code of conduct is in place.
In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP stunningly won 10 seats and the chief minister claims his party is striving hard this time to win all 11.
"One thing is sure, the BJP will be the single largest party (in the Lok Sabha) after the polls," Singh said. "The Congress faces the strong possibility of being blanked out from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which have 120 Lok Sabha seats."