Taking a dig at chief ministers of Congress ruled states boycotting the Niti Aayog meeting on contentious land bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “political considerations” over the bill were seriously impacting rural development.
Modi was speaking at the second meeting of Niti Aayog on the land acquisition bill, which was boycotted by chief ministers of nine Congress-ruled states and West Bengal's Mamta Banerjee and Uttar Pradesh's Akhilesh Yadav.
“The political deadlock over land acquisition was seriously impacting rural development, including the creation of schools, hospitals, roads and irrigation projects,” the Prime Minister said while addressing the second meeting of the Governing Council of the National Institution for Transforming India (Niti) Aayog. “Political considerations should not come in way of a solution that would facilitate development of rural areas and ensure greater prosperity for the farmers.”
Chief ministers of nine Congress ruled states, Mamata Banerjee from West Bengal and Akhilesh Yadav from Uttar Pradesh, boycotted the meeting while chief ministers of Odisha Naveen Patnaik and Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa did not attend because of prior engagements.
Later, finance minister Arun Jaitley termed certain non-BJP chief ministers skipping the Niti Aayog meeting “against the spirit of federalism” and asked them to introspect whether not attending the meeting was in tune with spirit of Indian democracy.
The Congress justified the decision saying the government should not have called Niti Aayog meeting on land bill knowing its opposition to the government's Ordinance.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar were other non-BJP CMs who attended the meeting but opposed the government’s land Ordinance saying the 2013 law should have been implemented for some time before amendments were proposed.
“The 2013 law was enacted after wide consultation and the BJP had also welcomed it,” Kejriwal said, while the questioning the rationale for the Ordinance. The Delhi CM also demanded a separate meeting on Centre-state relations and cooperative federalism.
Kumar on the other hand said it was not an appropriate time to amend the original law enacted by the last UPA government. The Tamil Nadu CM, in a statement issued in Chennai, opposed the Ordinance.
PM Modi insisted that the Ordinance on land acquisition was brought following demands from the states which felt development was suffering because acquisition under the new law was difficult. Jaitley later added that even some Congress chief ministers had raised concerns over the land law enacted by the UPA government.
Modi said the ordinance, which has been vociferously opposed by the Congress and other opposition parties, was brought in response to these developmental concerns of the states, and also to ensure that farmers continue to receive their legitimate dues.
He reiterated that as far as paying enhanced compensation to farmers was concerned, there were no differences in the stands of the central government and the states.
“The matter is now before the parliamentary standing committee, and therefore, ahead of the upcoming parliament session, it was appropriate that the suggestions of the states be listened to, once again,” an official statement quoted Modi as saying.
The PM also reiterated the vision of his government that state units should be the focus of all development efforts, as part of 'Team India' amd added that the chief ministers had always felt that development policies at the Centre should be framed in consultation with the states.
Wednesday's meeting was the second for Niti Aayog, which replaced the Planning Commission after the NDA government came to power at the Centre in 2014. The PM said the last one year had been a good beginning, with states being taken on board in the planning process, and chief ministers taking the lead in sub-groups of the newly formed commission.