Hours after Rahul Gandhi’s dramatic midnight detention in Uttar Pradesh’s Bhatta-Parsaul following his show of solidarity with farmers agitating for a better deal for their land acquired for an expressway, all major political parties jumped on to the bandwagon of spiraling discontent.
Eyes set on next year’s assembly elections, the parties held statewide protests, sharpening the war of words. Allegations of police brutality and massive kickbacks in land deals added fuel to the fire. Several BJP leaders were taken into detention in UP, including former party president and UP CM Rajnath Singh, who had gone on a protest fast.Amid the rising political heat, the Centre tried cool temperatures by assuring immediate action on the much delayed land acquisition bill.
Isolated in Lucknow by an aggressive opposition, chief minister Mayawati tried to push the responsibility on to the Centre, saying it had failed to update the 1894 law on land acquisition, which is expected to define norms on how governments can acquire land for development purposes.
The charge was quickly rebutted by the newly set-up group of ministers (GoM) on the media in Delhi. “Consensus building on the bill took some time. Now we are at a point when there is a fair degree of certainty that there is consensus on the law and it can be introduced with some amendments during the next Parliament session,” home minister P Chidambaram said.
Pressed further, Chidambaram did not even rule out the possibility of the Centre bringing an ordinance to make the rules for land acquisition clear.
“I don’t rule out any option at this stage,” he said in response to a question that the monsoon session was two months away.
However, the political potshots at Mayawati continued. Chidamabaram said the law and order situation in UP was not a “happy” one, though he ruled out sending a team.
Salman Khursheed, member of the media GoM and a senior UP Congress leader, said Mayawati was “jittery and losing sleep over the tremendous support and respect Rahul Gandhi was getting both inside and outside the party”. Mayawati had said Gandhi had come to UP because no one took him seriously in Delhi.
Across the state, senior political leaders protesting in favour of the farmers were taken into detention. Senior BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Lok Janashakti chief Ram Vilas Paswan, state Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait, along with their supporters, were detained.
Similar protests by Congress workers were held in Rae Bareli, Ghaziabad, Jhansi, Meerut, Allahabad and Sitapur districts.