In the face of stiff resistance from the Opposition and some of its allies, the government is considering referring its contentious land acquisition bill to a parliamentary panel for review.
The government plans to table the bill, to replace an existing ordinance, in Lok Sabha on May 7, a day before the budget session of Lok Sabha ends. While it expects smooth passage in the lower House, the Rajya Sabha — where it is in a minority — would be a different ball game with allies like the Shiv Sena and fence-sitters like the BJD and AIADMK averse to voting in favour of the legislation.
“Since it would be near impossible to pass the bill this session, there is no harm if a parliamentary panel reviews it till the next session in July,” said a government source.
A final call on the proposal would be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sources said, but the law and rural development ministries have already started preparatory groundwork to send the bill to a House panel.
The consensus-building signals come in the wake of accusations that the government is trying to bulldoze the bill — which makes acquiring farm land for large projects easier — through Parliament. The Congress-led Opposition and angry farmers have termed it ‘anti-poor’ and ‘pro-industry’.
On Thursday too, the Opposition in Lok Sabha accused the government of thrusting its legislative agenda on the House after it proposed to bring the land bill next week.
A parliamentary panel review, according to sources, gives different parties an opportunity to suggest amendments to the proposed legislation.
NDA managers, however, may try to ensure the ruling alliance is in a majority in the panel so that the bill isn’t entirely junked. And since such panels generally take a few months to submit reports, the NDA hope to use this time to reach out to voters and hard-sell its views.