Emboldened Opposition to stall Land Bill in Rajya Sabha

New Delhi(Web Team): After tasting victory over delaying two bills in Rajya Sabha, the Opposition is now scripting a strategy to stall other key reform legislations like land acquisition.

Despite its brute majority in Lok Sabha, a house of directly elected representatives, the Narendra Modi government is having to succumb to the Opposition writ in the Upper House, where the BJP is at a numerical disadvantage. Both land and insurance bills have been passed in Lok Sabha, but face the numbers challenge in Rajya Sabha. The bills on reforming coal and mining have been referred to select committees of the Rajya Sabha, which are to submit their reports by March 18, two days before Parliament breaks for recess.

Opposition parties, including the Congress, Left, Trinamool Congress, Samajdwadi Party and BSP, which together account for 126 in the 245-member House, are now planning to demand that the land acquisition bill also be referred to a Select Committee. Sources said the Opposition was also mulling over meeting President Pranab Mukherjee against the land acquisition bill.

At a meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss the formation of the Select Committees on coal and minerals, Opposition leaders told finance minister Arun Jaitley and parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu that the land acquisition bill should also be referred to a similar panel. The ministers said the bill could be discussed at a separate meeting.

The government, meanwhile, is reaching out to parties separately in an attempt to convince them that the bill was not anti-farmer. It has managed to win over the support of the Biju Janata Dal, which has 7 MPs in Rajya Sabha and the AIADMK, with 11 members in the House. In a bid to pacify regional parties, the government is trying to underline a provision in the bill that the choice of exempting projects from social impact assessment and consent clause rests with state governments.

BJD sources said the government had addressed four of its concerns on the bill and assured that it will look into its demand to ensure that the land owner becomes a partner in the economic activity on the acquired land.

The bill to raise the FDI cap from 26 per cent to 49 per cent is expected to come up in Rajya Sabha on Thursday. The Congress would find it difficult to oppose the bill during its tenure, but is also reluctant to break Opposition unity. The Congress wants other Opposition parties to stall the land acquisition bill. However, in the event of the insurance bill being rejected by the Upper House, the government has the option of taking it up in a joint session, where it would have a wafer thin majority.

While the government managed to ensure that the Select Committees were time bound, the Opposition is managing to keep the government on tenterhooks on almost every crucial legislation in Rajya Sabha. While BJP’s Bhupendra Yadav will head the Select Committee to look into the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, Anil Dave of the BJP will chair the panel on Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill. The committees comprise of 18 members each from various parties.