The Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) decision to virtually take over the protest against the Land Acquisition ordinance will help it gain a better foothold in states such as Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, besides helping in consolidating its position in Delhi.
Arvind Kejriwal shared the stage with Anna Hazare on Tuesday to oppose the ordinance after an estrangement of two years. The party had made the ordinance a poll issue and had also made it part of its election manifesto.
Despite Delhi being recognised largely as an urban centre, there are 364 villages — urban, semi urban and rural — within the city limits and the land acquisition ordinance affects them as much as it does the land owners in Chhattisgarh or Gujarat, though in different capacities.
The clauses in the ordinance that have angered landowners in the city the most are the ones that do away with taking consent of owners and using the acquired land within a period of five years, following which the land will be returned to the owners.
The ordinance, which was announced in November 2014, couldn’t have come at a better time for AAP. From losing all 12 rural constituencies by heavy margins in the 2013 assembly elections, the party has gone on to win big in all 12 seats in this year’s polls.
“If elections are held in Haryana today, the Bharatiya Janata Party will not be able to win more than four seats. That is the degree to which the ordinance has alienated the voter in rural areas,” said Devinder Sehrawat, AAP’s Bijwasan MLA.
“AAP’s stand against the ordinance helped consolidate votes from rural areas and we won from every rural seat. The BJP government seemed to have forgotten that there are villagers in Delhi as well and this affects them adversely,” he added.
Development and land acquisition
AAP’s development plans, however, will require land. Its stand on the acquisition ordinance, therefore, may put it in a spot of bother. The party has announced that it will start 500 new schools, 20 new colleges and EWS housing, all of which require massive tracts of land.
According to Congress’s Naresh Kumar, however, portraying the issue as development versus acquisition was incorrect.
“A farmer is not anti-development. You want to acquire land at very low rates and keep it vacant for years. This land will eventually be given to private bodies to be developed at a much higher price. The farmer loses out in his case and that is why the clause that states that the land should be returned within five years if unused is important,” he said.
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has 7,000 acres of land that is still unused. Its plan for the Integrated Freight Complex has been under development for over 15 years. It has to come up on an area of 700 acres, which is currently lying vacant.
According to AAP leaders, the land already available with DDA will be used for the projects that it has announced. For projects such as colleges in rural areas, the party plans to use land that villagers give to the government voluntarily. “The acquired land cannot be used only for commercial purposes. It has to be used according to the Master Plan. Also, a time-bound delivery is very important,” Sehrawat added.
Urban planning experts, however, disagree.
“When it comes to housing projects or other infrastructure projects, it can’t be delivered in a time-bound manner because of the number of permissions required and multiple agencies involved. This agitation is actually detrimental to the development. In Delhi, there are no real farmers anymore. Large tracts of land have been bought by politicians who now want to sell it at a premium and this is why these issues arise,” said AK Jain, town planner and former DDA commissioner.