Basavaraj Bommai hit back at Mr Siddaramaiah alleging that he was making "lame excuses". (File)
A day after Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah accused the central government of trying to scuttle his administration's free rice scheme for the poor, senior BJP leader Basavaraj Bommai on Thursday hit back alleging that he was making "lame excuses" and indulging in "conspiracy politics" by putting the blame on the Centre.
The Congress government in the state is indulging in tactics realising that it will default on the guarantees, the former chief minister said, suggesting that the Mr Siddaramaiah regime put the money into the bank account of the beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer, until it makes necessary arrangements for rice.
"The state government on one hand is cheating the people of the state with regard to providing 10 kg of free rice to the poor, and on the other hand to save themselves from the bad name of having failed to fulfill the promise, is playing politics on the issue of supply of rice," Mr Bommai said.
Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, he said the Centre as per the Food Security Act is giving 5 kg of free rice to the poor every month and from December they are also bearing handling and transport charges, which was earlier borne by the States.
"Out of the 10 kg that has been announced by the Congress government in the state, five kg are provided by the Centre; the state government has to tell the truth by saying that they will give additional five kg," he added.
Mr Siddaramaiah on Wednesday accused the BJP-led government at the Centre of conspiring to "fail" the Congress administration's poll guarantee by ensuring that the state doesn't get the required amount of rice to implement its 'Anna Bhagya' scheme, which provides additional 5 kg of rice for BPL families.
He had said that the central government has stalled the sale of wheat and rice to state governments under the Open Market Sale Scheme (Domestic) (OMSSD), which prohibits the Food Corporation of India (FCI) from selling any additional rice to Karnataka for its Anna Bhagya scheme.
Noting that even when the BJP government led by him tried to procure rice, Mr Bommai said the FCI even then had said that there was no provision and he and his officials had to speak to central ministers and put pressure. He had then clearly stated in the file and had instructed the officials that the rice will be available only till March, and after April additional rice will have to be procured through tender, he added.
"Not sure what actions officials take too. I want to ask this government -- the Chief Minister, ministers and officials held several rounds of discussions with the ministers -- you should have known what will be the shortage to provide 10 kg and considering my caution note they should have taken alternative measures through short term tender", he said.
If the government had a commitment, they should have taken alternative measures, Basavaraj Bommai said, alleging that it looks like making lame excuses was the only intention, so they did not take any measures.
"Instead of taking alternative measures, you blame the Centre, you lack will power. You have not been able to walk the talk and manage money for guarantees. As you have realised that you will not be able to fulfill the promises and will default on the guarantees, you are playing conspiracy politics by putting the blame on the Centre," he added.
Questioning whether the FCI or the ministry of food and civil supplies is the allotment agency, the former CM questioned why despite this being an important scheme of the state government no letter was written to the concerned central minister. The state food minister should have been sent to the Centre.
Neither was an alternative arrangement made by calling a tender, nor were honest efforts made to get the required rice from the Centre, he said, adding the state government instead wrote to the FCI, which is just a stockist and doesn't have any authority.
"Taking the stockist's version and using it for politics is not right on the part of the chief minister...they (State government) are doing politics," he said as he urged the state government to make alternative arrangements either through the open market or other central agencies, and supply rice to the poor from July 1 as promised.
"In case the state is unable to provide rice on time, put the money into the bank account of the beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer, until you make necessary arrangements," he added.
On the hike in power tariff, Bommai clarified that it was not done by the previous BJP government led by him as alleged, as the order was issued under the present Congress regime.
"When the proposal was brought before us on March 13, we did not accept it. On May 12 Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) issued the notification, which was two days after the election and the code of conduct was still in place, so our government had no role. On June 2 an official order was issued -- whose government was in power? False information is being spread blaming the previous administration," he added.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)