Despite sharp divisions in the Delhi Cabinet over a proposal to subsidise the sale of pulses for the city's poor, electoral compulsions finally paved the way for a subsidy of Rs 1.76 crore per month on the commodity. Since the MCD elections are round the corner, the Congress could ill-afford to antagonise the economically weaker sections of society who constitute a sizeable vote bank.
The government will provide the two most consumed pulses - arhar and chana - at a subsidy of 25 per cent to below poverty line (BPL) families, those covered under the Antyodaya scheme and slumdwellers having ration cards. Four kgs of pulses - two kgs each of arhar and chana - will be supplied to 5.04 lakh families in the city on a monthly basis through the public distribution system.
While arhar will be supplied at Rs 24.75 per kg against the present market rate of around Rs 33, chana will be sold to ration card holders at Rs 27.75 per kg against the market rate of around Rs 37 per kg.
The decision to extend the subsidy was taken despite an advice from the Finance Department to the contrary. Finance Department officials apprehended that the intended beneficiaries may not be able to enjoy the subsidy on account of pilferage.
Finance Minister A.K. Walia is understood to have favoured a broader policy to bring down the prices. He proposed a meeting with the traders to find out the reasons for the price rise. Later, while talking to reporters, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said it is "the commitment of her government to provide essential commodities to the economically weaker sections at reasonable rates".
Knowing that the decision has been made with an eye on the MCD polls, the Opposition BJP said the Congress was just indulging in vote bank politics.