The number of parties opposing the controversial land bill has “swelled” with some from the treasury benches joining the opposition bandwagon, Congress said on Thursday indicating that the government’s problems were far from over despite the bill being sent to a Joint Committee.
“By now, the number of opposition parties including those which are not in the opposition, has swelled… They are not with government on the land bill,” Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said. Addressing a press conference, along with Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Azad said earlier leaders of 14 opposition parties had marched to the Rashtrapati Bhavan on the issue.
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Asked whether Congress was in favour of re-promulgation of the land ordinance, Azad said it was a matter for the government to decide after considering legal aspects. Dismissing speculation that there were differences within the Congress over participation in the Joint Committee, Azad said it would have been ideal if the Act brought by the UPA government had been allowed to continue. “As the government is adamant, let us go to parliamentary scrutiny,” he said.
Noting that Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi guided the party in the just-concluded Budget Session, Kharge said they spoke on various issues ranging from farmers’ plight to net neutrality and transparency in government functioning. Seeking to dismiss government claims that the opposition put brakes on legislation-making initiatives, Kharge charged the Modi dispensation with “bulldozing” all bills through the Lok Sabha using its “brute majority” as the Congress was just 44 in a House of 543. This is “undemocratic” behaviour, he said.
Both Kharge and Azad charged the government with making attempts to “escape” parliamentary scrutiny. Kharge said this was evident from the fact that out of a total of 55 bills only five or six have been referred to the standing committee. These bills, he said, included four bills which were referred yesterday, last day of the Budget Session.
Azad said the tactics the government used for the passage of bills in the Rajya Sabha where it does not have a majority were by turning “normal” bills into “money” bills, so that the Upper House cannot go against such measures. He complimented all opposition parties for remaining “vigilant and alert” against the tactic of turning non-money bills into money bills to escape the scrutiny of the Rajya Sabha.
Whatever happens in the Lok Sabha is as per the wishes of the BJP, Azad said, parrying a direct question whether Congress was critical of the Speaker for declaring certain bills as money bills. He remained ambivalent to a question whether Congress would continue the campaign for removal of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari in the wake of the CAG report on alleged financial irregularities in his family linked Purti Group. “It is for the government to take an appropriate decision,” he said.
The government, which has promulgated the land ordinance twice since December last, had earlier in week agreed to refer it to the Joint Committee of Parliament after NDA allies Shiv Sena and Akali Dal joined the Opposition in Lok Sabha to oppose the measure.