Land Ordinance takes centre stage

The controversial land ordinance took centre stage on the opening day of the Budget Session of Parliament on Monday with the entire opposition ranged against it, forcing the BJP top brass to meet in the evening to discuss the government’s strategy.

Simultaneously, Opposition MPs in both Houses moved statutory resolutions “disapproving” the promulgation of all six ordinances that the government wants to convert into Acts of Parliament in this session. The point they wish to make is that they oppose the ordinance route for legislation.

With the Parliament break starting on March 20 and ending on April 20, the government must pass all six laws before the break starts or else the ordinances will lapse, necessitating re-promulgation. Indeed, the government is all set to introduce the Mines and Minerals Bill as well as the Bill to amend the Land Acquisition Act — to replace the ordinances — in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The government, BJP sources indicated, is not just under pressure from the opposition to amend the Bill that is to replace the Land Acquisition Ordinance, but also from the RSS affiliates, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh and the Swadeshi Jagran Manch: these organisations, too, want the government to amend it to include provisions on social impact, prior consent and only giving fallow, non-irrigated, non-cultivable land to five-star hotels, hospitals and private schools. It was pointed out to BJP leaders that one reason the party lost virtually all seats in the migrant-populated, semi-urban Outer Delhi was the Land Ordinance. The government is, therefore, likely to introduce amendments after it brings the Bill to the House.

Meanwhile, Lok Sabha MPs belonging to the Biju Janata Dal (Bhartuhari Mahtab), the RSP (N.K. Premachandran) the CPI (CN Jayadevan), the Trinamool Congress (Saugata Roy and Sultan Ahmed), the Swabhimani Paksh (Raju Shetty) filed separate statutory resolutions disapproving the promulgation of the six ordinances. These have been circulated and will be taken up not at the stage when the Bills are introduced but later when they are taken up for consideration and passing.

Mr. Mahtab, who has filed six separate resolutions, said, “The resolution and the Bill will be taken up together for consideration and passing. After the concerned Minister speaks, one MP who has moved the resolution will be permitted to speak.” If the MP who has moved the resolution insists there could be separate voting on the resolution and the Bill.

Similar statutory resolutions have been moved in the Rajya Sabha by the Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien and the CPI’s D. Raja, among others. But the rules here are different: in the Upper House, the statutory resolution will be taken up and voted on before the introduction of the Bill. Given that the government does not have the clear majority in the Upper House, it will have work on the opposition.

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