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Apr 22, 2012 at 11:18am IST

Agricultural exports: Pawar makes Congress uneasy?

New Delhi: In his now famous letter to the Prime Minister, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had termed the UPA's agriculture policy on exports "ambivalent", "constantly prevaricating" and "against the interests of the farming community". Pawar even took on Commerce and Textiles Minister Anand Sharma and Food Minister KV Thomas, both of the Congress party, while claiming that the Prime Minister was on his side.

However, Thomas has now refuted Pawar's charges.

He says, "Everybody knows that we can implement exports only by a collective decision. Now, a decision has been taken in the last EGoM (Empowered Group of Ministers) meeting to export 10 lakh tonnes. But there is some clarity on the mode of exports... Earlier we had pro-rata basis. Every mill gets some quantity, but a change has been proposed by which an OGL scheme has to be implemented. When there is a change we should have much clarity. So we are waiting for clarity as to what should be the mechanism by which 10 lakh should be exported."

He adds, "Our export of these items will definitely depend on how we are going to feed our own people. First of all we are concerned with our people. Only if you have excess, you can export. This mechanism has to be worked out by the EGoM."

Pawar had written in his letter to the PM that the "negativity prevalent in the Department regarding sugar exports can be best gauged from the fact that though the decision to allow sugar exports of 10 lakh tonnes was taken on March 26, 2012, no orders regarding the same have been issued till date".

He added, "It is necessary for us to allow a free market and trade regime to ensure remunerative price to farmers."

The Food Minister and the Agriculture Minister are not on the same page. To sort out issues, Sharad Pawar had also suggested that a meeting be held in the Cabinet or significantly, even at the level of the UPA Coordination Committee.

Clearly this is not just about food and agriculture. Pawar, who is a key ally of the Congress in the UPA, has found a novel way to exert pressure on the Congress and making it uneasy.