The government is likely to re-issue a controversial land ordinance that is set to lapse on April 5 after a top cabinet panel decided on Friday to prorogue the Rajya Sabha, where the government does not have the numbers to take on a unified Opposition.
The land acquisition bill – brought in to replace the ordinance -- has been at the centre of a pitched battle this session between the government and Opposition that is staunchly against the legislation, accusing it of being anti-farmer.
"We may repromulgate the ordinance soon after April 5 to ensure that it does not lapse," a government official said.
Parliament is currently on a month-long recess and is scheduled to reconvene for the second half of the budget session on April 20. For issuing an ordinance when Parliament is in session, at least one of the Houses has to be prorogued.
“The cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs (CCPA) has decided to recommend prorogation of the Rajya Sabha with immediate effect," parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu told reporters.
The CCPA meeting took place at the residence of home minister Rajnath Singh, who chairs the committee, and was attended by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who could not attend, was also earlier taken on board, sources said.
The contentious ordinance made significant changes to the UPA government’s land acquisition act, including the removal of a consent clause for acquiring land for five areas – industrial corridors, PPP projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.
In spite of extended discussions by senior ministers, a unified Opposition refused to back the bill in the Upper House – where the government is in a minority -- after the Lok Sabha passed it.
The repromulgated ordinance will carry the nine official amendments moved by the government during passage of the bill, which sought to replace the executive order.
Sources said senior ministers have reached out to key leaders of various political parties and the government will try its best to bring the land bill in the Rajya Sabha to replace the ordinance in the second half of the budget session.
Officials said the government may re-introduce the consent clause, reducing the earlier UPA requirement of 80% acceptance from farmers to 51%. The government may also climb down on another contentious clause on social impact assessment and replace it expert groups to determine whether excess land has been acquired for a project.The bill has seen a groundswell of protests both inside and outside Parliament with massive farmers’ demonstrations threatening to jeopardise several big-ticket projects worth thousands of crores that have been stuck for want of land. Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to farmers to support the land bill in his monthly radio address, Mann Ki Baat, and hit out at the Opposition for running a "misinformation campaign".