The government could soften its stance on the contentious land legislation with the key reform measure being stonewalled in Parliament by a united Opposition amid a deepening farm crisis, law minister Sadananda Gowda indicated in a television programme.
In an exclusive interview to India Today TV, Gowda said the Narendra Modi government was likely to adopt a crucial consent clause from a UPA-era law and also retain a provision allowing farmers to reclaim their land after five years if it was not used for the purpose it was acquired. An exception could be made for extraordinarily long gestation cases like for nuclear plants.
The minister announced that the government could consider a diluted consent clause of around 51% if recommended by a parliamentary panel.
“If it was necessary in the national interest, we will also take the land acquisition bill to a joint sitting of Parliament,” he said.
Congress chief ministers rejected the Modi government’s bill at a meeting chaired by party president Sonia Gandhi this week while her son and deputy, Rahul Gandhi, has nettled the Centre with unrelenting attacks on its land and farm policies while courting voters in the countryside to shore up his poll-battered outfit.
The RSS-allied Bharatiya Kisan Sangh asked for the consent of at least 51% of affected families for land acquisition.
The law minister sought to allay fears that the proposed National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), which aims to replace the two-decade-old collegium system of judges appointing judges, would undermine the judiciary.
“Independence of the judiciary begins after judges are chosen. It’s not connected with how they are chosen,” Gowda said.
He also announced that Article 370 of the Constitution, which grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir, could be abrogated in the state only after extensive consultations and consensus, while he agreed that chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had a veto on the matter in view of the ruling PDP-BJP alliance.
Withdrawal of the constitutional provision in the Muslim-majority state has been a core issue for the BJP since the days of the Jana Sangh, while the PDP has held the special status of Jammu and Kashmir as crucial.
A few weeks ago, BJP chief Amit Shah said the party would require a two-third majority in Parliament to get its way on the matter.