New Delhi: Keen to implement the UPA's national food security ordinance at the earliest, Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi has convened a meeting of party Chief Ministers and state unit chiefs on July 13 to discuss the issue, sources said on Tuesday.

The meeting comes days after the Congress-led UPA government issued an ordinance to implement its flagship social welfare legislation, the National Food Security Bill. According to sources, Sonia Gandhi wants Congress governments in states to roll out the right to food law at the earliest so that the poor can feel its impact.

The bill is expected to be a game-changer for the Congress ahead of the assembly polls in five states by this year-end and the 2014 general elections. There is apprehension in the Congress that opposition-ruled states may not be as enthusiastic in implementing the ordinance, which aims to give subsidised grains to around 67 percent of India's 1.2 billion people (around 800 million), said the sources.

Knowing that the rollout of the ordinance would take even the Congress-ruled states some time, the Congress leadership does not want to leave anything to chance as any electoral benefits would come only if the scheme is implemented on the ground, the sources said.

The government is facing another hurdle as it has to get the ordinance approved in the coming monsoon session of parliament likely to begin in early August. Fearing that the legislation was likely to benefit the Congress, opposition parties may not be in a mood to cooperate in approving the ordinance, said government sources.

The right to food law is expected to fetch rich electoral dividends to the Congress in 2014, just as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme did in the 2009 general elections.

Food Minister K.V. Thomas briefed party spokespersons on  Monday on details of the food security bill so that they are better informed and confident of defending it during debates. It is expected that Congress-ruled Delhi, which will have assembly elections this year-end, may become the first state in the country to roll out the food security bill on Aug 20, the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, said party sources.


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