Even before the submission of the report on the Land Bill by the joint parliamentary committee, the breakfast meeting of the NCP chief Sharad Pawar signals PM Narendra Modi now has bigger reasons to worry than its passage in Parliament.
If Prime Minister Narendra Modi had even the remotest hope of convincing the non-Nationalist Democratic Alliance (NDA) parties to reconsider their opposition to the changes in the UPA’s Land Acquisition Act of 2013 after nine Congress chief ministers skipped the NITI Aayog governing council meeting along with West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh chief ministers; Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s breakfast meeting on Tuesday must have dashed that.
In fact, the gathering signals that the NDA government might find it extremely difficult to push its legislative agenda if this unity of the non-NDA parties on the Land Bill changes gets stronger after Bihar assembly polls slated for October-November.
Though the embarrassing part for the NDA government was Shiv Sena attending the meeting of opposition parties called by Pawar to chalk out a common strategy to block the amended Bill; Trinamool Congress, Left parties and Congress coming together leaves no doubt the majority is against any change in the UPA’s 2013 Act.
The joint parliamentary committee looking at the amended Bill is expected to submit its report in Parliament next week, but the message to the government is now crystal clear – it must forget the Land Bill. In fact, the chances of getting the Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA lacks a majority had diminished much before the start of the Monsoon session which will conclude on August 13. But, the way the government has got cornered on this issue should sound an alarm for PM Modi.
Even if the BJP states make amendments in their Land Acts on the lines of the proposed changes in the Central Bill diluting the social impact and consent clauses – Rajasthan has already initiated the process for notifying rules according to the Centre’s Land Acquisition Ordinance besides introducing its own Land Act changes in the assembly — it would be difficult for him to push the reform agenda in Parliament successfully if non-NDA parties remain non-supportive.
The prime minister would have done well if he would have understood this much earlier and would have avoided this situation, bringing most of the opposition parties, and also his prospective allies like Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and TMC, together. His biggest challenge now is to diffuse the unity of the non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parties on the Land Bill before it escalates.