BJPs opposition may see Land Bill clearing deferred

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 4 2011, 08:57am hrs
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The country will not get a new law to change the rules for land acquisition for industry any time soon. The Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill is unlikely to be cleared in the winter session of Parliament despite rural development minister Jairam Rameshs assurances as the principal Opposition party, BJP, is refusing to hurry the legislative process.

The passage of the Bill is crucial for Congress fortunes in Uttar Pradesh, where elections are around the corner.

But sources confirmed that the parliamentary standing committee on rural development examining the Bill is unlikely to table its report in time for the winter session, due from the end of November. The matter, a cause for much worry, even took Ramesh to the doorstep of committee chairperson Sumitra Mahajan. The BJP MP from Indore declared herself unable to rush the matter. Land is a state subject and the BJP, which has seven states under its rule, is reluctant to let the Centre play the big brother.

Mahajan told FE: The matter is very sensitive, and there are implications for Centre-state relations. We are looking into it.

In fact, there appears to be bad blood brewing between the government and the BJP on the matter. Sources confirmed that Mahajan has been irked by Ramesh's haste in the matter. Ramesh met Mahajan recently and she was further irked after finding media too parked outside her residence.

The new committee on rural development was constituted only in mid-September, and has (since then) received between 700-800 submissions on the Bill; some of these will have to be looked into, said a member of the committee.

Ramesh on his part is doing his best to expedite matters. He met both the leaders of the Opposition, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. Jaitley appeared noncommittal, but Swaraj reportedly told Ramesh that committee work could not be hastened. She too told the minister there are sensitive issues involved.

When a similar Bill was tabled during the last days of UPA I, the then standing committee headed by Kalyan Singh (who was then a BJP MP), rejected the contention of ending the state government's role in allotting land for industrial projects. He had ample support from the Left parties, and the Bill never made it past the last Lok Sabha.

This time round, the standing committee will call representatives from the state governments as well some of the other objectors to the Bill. Members of the committee who spoke to FE said that meetings were being held often. The committee met on Thursday too. (But) It will take time, said another member.