A statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme became a bone of contention during a meeting of the Joint Committee of Parliament examining the Land Acquisition Bill, prompting opposition members to demand that the PM clarify his stand on the floor of the House.
During the Monday meeting, some committee members pointed out that Modi had already said on his radio programme that the government would withdraw the ordinance that was brought in place of the Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2015, thereby rendering their deliberations useless.
“Our stand is that after the PM’s ‘Mann ki Baat’, the committee has become superfluous and irrelevant. We (the committee) were looking into the amendments. If there are no amendments, then what is the relevance of the committee? The question is whether ‘Mann ki Baat’ was right or not. If any attempt is made to make a U-turn, then it will become an issue,” Congress member Jairam Ramesh said.
Opposition party members demanded that the PM be called before the committee, but this demand was not met favourably by chairman S S Ahluwalia. The Congress, Trinamool Congress and YSR Congress then resolved to demand that the PM make a statement in Parliament during the Winter Session.
When Congress members expressed surprise that a meeting had been called to discuss a bill that stands withdrawn as per the PM’s statement, BJP MP Krishna Raj insisted that Modi’s statement was not an official announcement, hence the committee would continue its work.
“‘Mann ki Baat’ and Parliament are different fora, there is no information from the Speaker about the Bill having been withdrawn,” she reportedly said. At this Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien asked whether ‘Mann ki Baat’, too, was a jumla. The TMC demanded that the PM be called to explain his position on the Bill.
BJP MP P P Chaudhry immediately protested, saying the PM could not possibly be summoned. However, opposition MPs cited Rule 270 to assert that any person can be asked to appear before the committee. The JPC on the stock exchange scam, allegedly engineered by Harshad Mehta, had summoned then finance minister Manmohan Singh, it was pointed out. Congress members demanded that the PM or any other responsible member of his cabinet make a statement on the floor of the House on the status of the Bill.
The committee, which was supposed to submit its report by November 27, will seek an extension till the end of the Winter Session on December 23. Sources in the Congress said there were misgivings about a possible U-turn by the government on the Land Bill after the BJP’s Bihar drubbing, especially after BJP MPs in the committee insisted that the PM’s statement on ‘Mann Ki Baat’ was in relation to the land ordinance and not the Bill.
The meeting was attended by only 10 of the 30 members, and was slightly delayed as initially there was no quorum.