Over 100 Opposition MPs led by Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi today marched from Parliament House to Rashtrapati Bhawan, the Residence of the President of India, in protest against the Land Acquisition Bill.
MPs and leaders from at least 10 political parties – including friends and erstwhile foes of the Congress like the Samajwadi Party, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, both leftist parties the CPI and CPI(M), and even the Shiv Sena, which is in alliance with the BJP in Maharashtra.
Other opposition parties in the protest were Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD, Nitish Kumar's JD(U), the Muslim League, the RSP and the JD(S). Sharad Pawar's NCP too joined the protest march to President Pranab Mukherjee; but Mayawati's BJP was conspicuous by its absence.
The opposition parties have been opposing the amendments to the Land Acquisition Act on the ground that it anti-farmer.
The protesters shouted anti-government slogans and resolved to continue their opposition till the Modi government makes changes in the Bill.
A large contingent of security personnel drawn from the Delhi Police and paramilitary forces was deployed in the area in riot gear.
Barricades were set up and water cannons were also placed on the route leading from Parliament to the President's House, the route of the march.
The Lok Sabha had cleared the land Bill last week, but the government lacks numbers in the Rajya Sabha to push it through.
The leaders of the parties will submit a memorandum against the new land bill to President Pranab Mukherjee.
Sources in the opposition said the Congress has played a key role in organising the protest, despite the absence of its vice-president and heir apparent Rahul Gandhi, who took off on an 'introspection' leave on the eve of the budget session of parliament.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, JDS chief H D Devegowda, CPI-M's Sitaram Yechury, CPI's D Raja, Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi, the SP's Ramgopal Yadav, the DMK's Kanimozhi, INLD's Dushyant Chautala and RJD's Prem Chand Gupta were among the leaders participating in the march.
Manmohan Singh's attending the event is significant as it comes days after the Congress chief led a march from party headquarters to the former Prime Minister's residence to express solidarity after Singh was summoned in a coal scam case.
Social activist Anna Hazare recently held a fast against the bill; and has appealed to the opposition parties to resist the government's attempts to pass it.
On the governmental side, several senior ministers including Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu made appeasing noises, suggesting they were open to further debate on the controversial bill.