BJP bids to counter Congress opposition to land acquisition bill

The government is planning a re-promulgation of the ordinance on the land acquisition bill this week while BJP leaders do a firefighting job to save it from a determined opposition ed by the Congress party, at least in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP is in a minority.

Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari on Monday accused Congress president Sonia Gandhi of ''misleading'' the country and the party-led UPA of indulging in populist measures to lure voters without taking the country's interests into account.

Gadkari asked Sonia Gandhi to ''think beyond politics'' for the interest of the nation. He also challenged Sonia for an open debate over the land bill, arguing democracy demands debate over welfare measures and leaders should not shy away from it.

With projects worth crores of rupees stuck in infrastructure projects that are held up because of the difficulties involved in acquiring land, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made amending the law the centrepiece of the reform effort.

Under the farmer-friendly law passed by the earlier UPA government, any acquisition of land except for state government needs, requires the approval of 80 per cent of the affected landowners as well as carrying out a social impact assessment study.

The Congress party has challenged the Modi government's move to dilute consent clause in the bill as anti-farmer and has vowed to oppose it in its present form.

Responding to the Congress chief's letter on the land acquisition bill, Gadkari, the government's point person for evolving a consensus on the controversial legislation, said that the bill passed by the UPA has only helped deny benefits of irrigation and rural infrastructure.

Irrigation and other rural and social infrastructure projects remain stuck and farmers continue to depend on rain all the time, as the UPA's legislation closed the door for all land acquisitions, Gadkari pointed out.

The rural development ministry is preparing a new ordinance to replace the earlier one that lapses on 5 April, official sources said.

However, the ordinance cannot last for long and has to be passed by Parliament to become law and this requires support from opposition legislators as well.

The amended ordinance will include proposals approved by the lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha.

The land acquisition bill proposes to make it easier to buy land for industrial corridors, rural housing and electrification, and for defence purposes while its critics say the proposed land reforms are anti-farmer and will rob millions of people of their livelihoods.