Friday, December 19, 2014

Anupriya Patel, BJP ally, warns govt not to dilute MNREGA

New Delhi: The opposition in Lok Sabha found a surprising supporter in Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal, a member of the BJP-led NDA government. She batted for the opposition when she opposed the reported dilution of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), here on Thursday.She represens Mirzapur, the constituency adjacent to prime minister Narendra Modi's Varanasi.

Participating in the debate under Rule 193 on the issue, Patel, who had joined the NDA a few weeks before the Lok Sabha election earlier this year, said that the Rs 3000 crore spent in the form of subsidy for the programme is dwarfed by the thousands of crores of tax rebates to private corporations. Citing corruption involving hue amounts in defence deals, this did not mean that defence transactions do not take place. She said to eliminate the corruptions that occurs because of middle men, the panchayats at the village level should be entrusted to make the payments.

Speaking on phone, Patel had clarified that though her party was an ally of the BJP, she will not be able to accept any decision to dilute the MNREGA as she has her own commitments towards social sector issues. She said that all that she was trying to do was to offer constructive suggestions to the government.

It seems clear that there will be dissenting voices from the NDA on certain issues, and that the smaller parties like Apna Dal will not remain submissive and silent in relation to big brother BJP. Patel and her party were brought into the NDA to avert her fighting from Varanasi and splitting the vote. This was done to ensure Modi a victory with a huge margin.

The debate has been on for more than two days now. Members of the Congress have argued vehemently in favour of MNREGA saying that it was a pro-poor policy which the BJP wants to dismantle. The Congress sees it as its signature programme along with the Food Security Act and it wants to defend its virtues. Members from the treasury benches have been saying that the MNREGA was wasteful, that it did not help the poor and that it was the contractors or middle men who had benefited from it.

A senior member of the cabinet from the BJP speaking on condition of anonymity said the government did not want to do away with MNREGA, but it certainly wants to make it more effective. He pointed out that it would not be useful to spread the MNREGA evenly all across the country. He said that states like Haryana did not need the MNREGA to the same degree as those in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. He said the government wants to make the programme a better one.

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