The government said on Tuesday it was open to all changes in a controversial land bill on which a consensus existed as a parliamentary panel prepared to drop contentious provisions amid fears the legislation would adversely affect the BJP’S poll prospects.
In a major climb-down, rural development minister Birendra Singh said the NDA government maintained it wouldn’t object to good suggestions from any institution, political party or farmers. His comments came a day after BJP legislators joined Opposition members to recommend 12 of 15 key amendments to the new land bill be dropped, virtually asking the Centre to restore the UPA’s land laws.
"We, too, must consider the issues on which there has been a consensus because a joint parliamentary committee is after all considered a mini Parliament. If there are dissent notes, we will examine what are the suggestions," Singh told reporters.
The minister said the government’s stand would be known after August 7, when the panel submitted its report. The panel couldn’t meet on Tuesday due to an Opposition boycott and will meet on August 10 next.
The NDA government brought sweeping changes to the UPA’s land laws in December through an ordinance that was re-promulgated twice but the showpiece reform legislation ran into a groundswell of opposition with Congress members calling it “anti-farmer”.
The government’s attempt to scrap mandatory social impact assessment and take away farmers’ rights to refuse any acquisition, were singled out by the Opposition to paint the NDA as a pro-industry regime. The government’s lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha also compounded difficulties.
But fears of a farmer backlash in the upcoming Bihar polls in October-November are what may have compelled the government to backtrack on the showpiece legislation.
Many BJP MPs from Uttar Pradesh told the party leadership the contentious legislation could cost the party dear in the 2017 assembly elections.
The climb-down also came after a study revealed central ministries didn’t make a single acquisition bid under the land ordinance this year.