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Land Acquisition Bill: Government wakes up to Rajya Sabha number reality

New Delhi,Iftikhar Gilani(dna): Nine months ago, when prime minister Narendra Modi was elected to power riding on a brute majority with the ruling alliance surpassing 300 MPs, first time after two decades, one hoped, he would be able to sail through his agenda in Parliament without any difficulty and compromises. But the government has now learnt the hard way the impossibility of pushing its agenda in absence of a majority in Rajya Sabha.

To salvage its Land Acquisition Bill from being defeated or being sent to select committee, when it comes in Rajya Sabha, finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday offered to leave the discretion in the hands of the state governments to implement or reject the exemption from clause for certain acquisitions. His hint came in the Lok Sabha while replying to the two-day debate on budget, just two hours before the MPs of 14 political parties, led by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, marched from the Parliament House to petition the President to intervene in the interest of farmers and prevent the Modi government from going ahead with amendments in the 2013 law. It will be up to the states to keep or discard the consent clause. “Let states decide if they want to roll new land acquisition law: let investors decide which state they want to go to,” he said.

The Opposition is awaiting a showdown on Wednesday to once again stuck the mining and coal bills. Both had been referred to select committees, who finalised their reports on Tuesday. The Opposition alleges that chairmen of the two select committees belonging to the ruling BJP bulldozed all procedures and forced approval of the Bills as ditto in their meetings without allowing any changes. They neither allowed issue of notifications inviting objections and suggestions, nor did the committees hear the stakeholders like the mine owners and workers’ unions, not even the state governments who are supposed to have the major stake at least under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill.

The select committees were constituted last Wednesday to resolve the impasse over the two Bills that are to replace two Ordinances issued in December. The government had yielded to formation of the two committees after sensing that the Opposition was otherwise all determined to defeat the two Bills that were earlier passed by the Lok Sabha. A rider was put on the committees to give their reports within one week by March 18 to enable the Rajya Sabha consider the two Bills based on their recommendations in the last two days before the month-long recess in the budget session. The government’s worry is that the related Ordinances will lapse on April 6 unless the Bills get the nod of both the Houses.