Opposition from within grew over the land acquisition law with key ally Shiv Sena opposing the Bill in its present form while government indicated that there could be amendments to accommodate concerns of farmers.
Hectic consultations within and outside the government continued day long as Rural Development Minister Birender Singh tabled the land acquisition bill in the Lok Sabha amidst walkout by almost the entire opposition.
The frenetic activities took place on a day Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal joined Anna Hazare in the agitation against the bill which the farmers say should have provisions for 70 per cent consent from land owners for projects and making the social impact assessment mandatory.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a number of ministers gave enough signals to indicate that the exercise of taking note of farmers’ concerns was on and changes may be incorporated in the bill.
At the meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party Parliamentary Party Modi made it clear that there was no going back on the law but said the government was open to suggestions in the interest of farmers.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told Rajya Sabha that the government was keen to hold discussions with all parties to find a way out while farmer representatives who met Home Minister Rajnath Singh claimed that government will keep in mind their concerns while enacting the law.
But it was Shiv Sena, the oldest BJP ally, which is also the second largest in the National Democratic Alliance with 18 MPs in Lok Sabha and three in the Rajya Sabha, that came out in public to oppose the new Bill.
“There is no question of Shiv Sena supporting any law that goes against the interest of farmers,” Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said in a statement even as three of the party MPs attended a meeting of NDA MPs convened by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu where Birendra Singh was also present.
Thackeray said Sena cannot commit the “sin” of squeezing the throat of farmers and told BJP that it was the farmers that brought it to power.
Naidu apprised the NDA MPs of the provisions of the new law and removed some of their misgivings saying there is a disinformation campaign by the opposition in this regard. The exercise was aimed at seeking suggestions and feedback from MPs to make the law more effective.
However, for the record Modi asked party MPs to “bust the myths” propagated by Opposition parties on it, sources said.
Rajnath Singh continued discussions with farmer bodies on their concerns. After the meeting, a representative of the apex body of farmers claimed that government gave an assurance that it would keep in mind their concerns while enacting the land acquisition law.
Naidu later said many NDA MPs gave a suggestion that land where projects were cleared but not taken off even after 20 years of acquisition should be given back to farmers.
He said the land ordinance was brought after as many as 32 states and UnionTerritories had sought amendment in the law because infrastructure development was held up.
Naidu told the MPs that any laws brought by the state in this regard would not be over ruled by the central law.
Meanwhile, the Congress declared that its opposition to the land bill was non-negotiable and it will go to any extent to ensure that it is withdrawn and the provisions of the original United Progressive Alliance law restored.
The party will be holding a rally against the new bill in Jantar Mantar on Wednesday.