The spotlight on the long-pending amendment to the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, was back when a Congress delegation, led by general secretaries Rahul Gandhi and Digvijay Singh, extracted a promise from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday that he would bring a Bill to amend the Act in the winter session of Parliament.

Emerging from a meeting in Parliament House, Mr. Digvijay Singh said: “The Uttar Pradesh government is misusing the emergency clauses in the Land Acquisition Act to acquire land [at very low prices]. So, this Act needs to be amended and the Prime Minister assured us that he will bring the amendments in the next session of Parliament.”

Earlier, in a veiled attack against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, Mr. Gandhi described as “very unfair” the forcible acquisition of farmers' land in Aligarh and adjoining areas.

“What I saw in Aligarh was very unfair,” he said, a few days after his surprise visit to the Tappal village in Aligarh district, where he met farmers demanding higher compensation for the land the government acquired for the Yamuna Expressway.

“I think land acquisition is a very big issue in the country and [we] need to have a view on it.”

Asked how the government proposed to bring on board Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is opposing bringing in the Bill till after the West Bengal elections are over, Mr. Gandhi just smiled and said: “Let's see.”

Later, when Ms. Banerjee was asked her views were on the Bill, she told The Hindu: “Let the government bring the Bill — then I will give my opinion.”

Not joining gherao

He also said the Congress would not participate in the farmers' gherao of Parliament on Thursday as the Bahujan Samaj Party, whose government was forcibly acquiring land, was a participant. “I told Chaudhury Ajit Singh [of the Rashtriya Lok Dal], ‘How can you gherao Parliament with those who have been firing on the farmers?' Let's go and gherao the Uttar Pradesh Assembly instead.”


At rally, Rahul steals the show August 26, 2010