Land Bill to be tabled in Lok Sabha today; fight expected to go down to the wire
The fresh ordinance, which is the 11th by the Modi govt, incorporates nine amendments that were part of the bill passed in Lok Sabha last month.
Since Parliament went into a recess on March 20, the government has made all efforts to beat the growing perception that the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation (Amendment) Bill, 2015 is against the interest of farmers and small land-holders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally led this campaign when he strongly contested the Opposition view in his ‘Man ki Baat’ address on radio.
BJP MPs and Union ministers, led by FM Arun Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, have used every opportunity to rubbish the Congress charge that the proposed legislation was anti-poor.
These ministers have also been in touch with various Opposition parties to convince them to support the Bill in the Rajya Sabha where the government is in a minority.
While the Congress, Left, Trinamool Congress, BSP, DMK and a few others are strongly opposed to the Bill, the NDA managers have been working to garner support from parties like AIADMK, NCP and BJD, along with some Independents and minor parties.
Though ally Shiv Sena has opposed the Bill, sources in the BJP said the government was confident of its support when it comes for voting in the House. BJP expects the same from another old ally Shiromani Akali Dal. Even with all its constituents supporting the bill, the NDA government still falls short of the half-way mark in the Upper House.
The formation of the Janata Parivar has come as another dampener for the BJP as they were expecting a helpful role from Samajwadi Party MPs during vote on the Bill, possibly in the form of a walk-out. “Our demand is that an all-party meeting should be called to discuss the Land Bill. The SP is opposed to the Bill in its present form,” SP Rajya Sabha member Naresh Agarwal told ET.
The RJD, JD (U), JD(S), INLD are opposed to the Land Bill. “Our party had held strong protests in Singur and Nandigram against acquisition of land by the then Left government. We had even opposed the 2013 Land Bill moved by the UPA government. There is no question of supporting this Land Bill,” a TMC MP said. BSP Chief Mayawati has already announced a nation-wide agitation against the Land Bill.
Most opposition leaders ET spoke with indicated that the Opposition would unitedly demand in the Rajya Sabha (which meets on April 23) that the Bill be sent to a Select Committee.
Asked about the developments and government’s plans on getting Parliament’s nod to the Land Acquisition Bill, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government would not like to reveal its strategy beforehand but insisted that sections within the Congress are in favour of amending the 2013 law. “Congress should answer why its chief ministers are not able to implement the present law in their states,” Prasad said.
While leaving no stone unturned to get support for the Land Bill, the government is now worried about the growing perception due to the Bill that it is anti-poor. “Our problem has been aggravated by the unseasonal rains which have badly affected the farmers as their crops have been destroyed,” a BJP union minister said.