A combative Rahul Gandhi kept up his attack on Narendra Modi government, accusing it of working against middle class home-buyers by “diluting” a bill on regulating real estate sector and making it “pro-builders”.
The Congress Vice President, who has aggressively targeted the government and the Prime Minister over the land bill and farmers’ issues since his return from a nearly two-month leave, today sought to reach out to middle class, saying he would fight for them the way he has stood by farmers and tribals.
“Government, which has been working against farmers and tribals, is working against the middle class in the same manner,” he told reporters after meeting several NCR flat buyers here.
With Rahul upping the ante on the amended Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, the fate of the bill listed for consideration and passage in Rajya Sabha on May 5 has become uncertain as the NDA does not have the numbers in the Upper House to ensure its passage.
“I have assured them that the way I am helping the poor and the tribals, I will do the same for the middle class. I will stand by them,” the Congress leader said, as he sought to link the “suffering” of the middle class home-buyers with the issue of land, which the Congress has made a major political plank.
Rahul said that he had learnt that it is not just farmers and tribals but also the middle class people that are suppressed on matters related to land.
Assuring home-buyers that he would stand by them, Gandhi said that it was due to lack of transparency, the buyers were left in a quandary.
“They are told that you will get the flat on a particular day but for years they don’t get the flat. They are told the super duper area of the flat would be so much but what is delivered is different,” he said.
He said the government was trying to destroy the Bill which Congress led UPA had brought to regulate the real estate sector.
“Main dilution is that earlier there was transparency. The carpet area that you sign is what would be given. They have diluted that now and from pro-buyer made it pro-builder,” he said, firing yet another salvo at Modi government whom he has accused of being “pro-corporate, anti-farmer and anti-poor” over the land bill.
In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls also, the Congress Vice President had made a strong pro-middle class pitch promising to “create a floor” beneath the feet of 70 crore population of the country and lift them to middle class status.
The Congress has decided to take the issue of changes brought about by the NDA government in the real estate bill to people and bring out the “contrast” between UPA’s real estate bill and NDA’s legislation on the line of what it did in the case of the land acquisition Act.
Congress’ argument is that in the earlier real estate bill, the carpet area was defined in a clear and unambiguous manner as “net usable area” in an apartment excluding the walls.
“It has been amended now with an explanation that the â€˜net usable areaâ€™ will be â€˜rentable areaâ€™ as defined in National Building Code 2005 or its later versions.
“This means that an area has been defined in such a manner that it will further confuse the buyer and the area as defined has been linked to the Building Code which can be amended later even without coming to Parliament,” the party said.
Congress is also arguing that while in the earlier bill, the builders were not allowed to change the sanctioned plan once approved and the project is launched, now the builders can undertake “minor alterations” just by intimating the buyer and the extent or type of minor alteration is not defined.
Congress is also arguing while in earlier Bill, it was very difficult to seek deadlines for extension of projects, now it is very easy to delay the project.
Former Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA) minister and Congress leader Ajay Maken also attacked the BJP- led NDA government saying it had made “118 amendments” to the Real Estate Regulatory Authority Bill which had been brought by the earlier government.
He said that the intention of the earlier Bill was to protect and support the buyers but the government had overturned it entirely through these amendments.
In the earlier bill, the builder was under obligation to keep 70 per cent of the amount realised from buyers from a particular project.
“This clause was introduced with the aim to ensure that the builder doesn’t divert the money taken from home buyers and projects are completed timely. Now this section has been weakened and the 70 per cent limit is reduced to 50 per cent,” he said.
“Moreover, the amended Bill allows members of Real Estate Regulatory Authority to take employment with private builders, after demitting office. This is repulsive amendment and this will encourage unholy nexus between builders and the Authority,” Maken said.
Maken said the UPA had brought the bill in Rajya Sabha so that it does not lapse and Rahul Gandhi has now assured the buyers that he would fight for their cause.
Facing number crunch in Rajya Sabha, government was last week forced to defer the real estate bill after opposition insisted on referring it to the Select Committee of Parliament.
Cornered by the Opposition, Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had then said that the Bill should be deferred to allow government time to have more consultations with parties and had promised to come back to the House.