Congress chief ministers are unlikely to attend a meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 15 in an apparent bid to take the steam out of government’s moves to push the controversial Land Bill in the Monsoon session of Parliament beginning next week.
Party sources gave indications to this effect when asked if Congress Chief Ministers could be considering a boycott of the meeting in the backdrop of the opposition party coming out strongly against the measure, dubbing it as “anti-farmer” and “pro-corporate”.
The Prime Minister is scheduled to meet chief ministers to discuss the controversial land bill in the latest attempt to break the deadlock over it.
It will be the second meeting of the governing council of the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), about a week before the monsoon session of parliament is set to begin.
Congress is ruling in nine states namely Kerala, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarkhand, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram.
Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already expressed her inability to attend the meeting and if Congress Chief Ministers stayed away, it would mean the absence of 10 of the some 30 Chief Ministers at the crucial meet.
Banerjee has written to the PM on her opposition to the land acquisition bill and her inability to attend the meeting due to pre-occupations.
In fact, Congress sources said that the party Chief Ministers have written identical letters to the Parliamentary Committee going into the measure informing it that their state is opposed to the provisions of the Bill and would like “no amendments” to be to made to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
They have held that the amendments go against the interests of farmers and take away the rights of tribal communities and gram sabhas.
The Chief Ministers have pointed out that the 2013 Act had been passed unanimously by Parliament in September 2013 after over two years of nation-wide consultations and debate.
They have told the Parliamentary Committee headed by senior BJP leader S S Ahluwalia that most of the recommendations of the department-related Standing Committee on Rural Development had also been incorporated into the legislation passed during the Congress-led UPA regime.
To build consensus, the government has introduced several amendments to the bill and formed the parliamentary committee to examine compensation clauses and resettlement of farmers.
Though the panel was asked to submit its report at the beginning of the upcoming session, it has requested more time.
Government has been determined to push through the land bill that seeks to exempt land purchases for certain industrial, housing and infrastructure projects from requiring the consent of 80 per cent of landowners.
The monsoon session is expected to be a tumultuous one, with contentious land, labour and GST bills on the table, and simmering political scandals threatening to disrupt proceedings.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi had led a march of leaders of 14 opposition parties to President Pranab Mukherjee during the Budget session to protest against the bill.
Rahul Gandhi has been agitating against the measure and had addressed a rally of farmers at the historic Ramlila grounds on the eve of the second phase of the Budget session.