Government to re-promulgate land bill before it lapses on 6 April

The government has decided to extend the life of the land acquisition bill by re-promulgating the ordinance, setting the stage for another round of parliamentary battle with the opposition.

The CCPA took the decision on Friday evening, after a face-off with the Congress Party, which refused to back the bill in its present form.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi dubbed the bill as "blatantly anti-farmer" and "anti-poor."

The ordinance lapses on 6 April and the cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs (CCPA) has recommended that the Rajya Sabha be prorogued, so that the ordinance can be re-promulgated.

"The cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs met and has decided to recommend prorogation of the Rajya Sabha with immediate effect," parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu told reporters after the CCPA meeting. He did not specify when the government planned to bring the bill.

The bill was passed in Lok Sabha, where the government has a comfortable majority, with nine amendments. The government's own ally, Shiv Sena, abstained from the voice vote.

In the 245-member Rajya Sabha, the Congress has 68 seats and the Left 11. The BJP, which has 47 seats, would require the support of some opposition parties to get the bill passed.

The new ordinance, however, will be different from the existing one as it will take into account nine amendments moved by the government during the passage of the land bill in the Lok Sabha.

Also, with the opposition and alliance partner Shiva Sena opposing the bill, there could be changes in at least two crucial clauses relating to consent for land acquisition and compensation, sources said.

These two clauses are at the centre of the opposition from political parties and activists, and the government, which is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, is hoping to divide the opposition again to get this bill also passed.

The bill would have lapsed by the time the House reconvened on 20 April and the government was in no mood to let the ordinance lapse and forgo a key legislation.

Also, allowing the ordinance to lapse would indicate succumbing to opposition pressure.