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In land Bill setback, BJP sees a silver lining of ‘competing states’

The BJP argued that the “competitive federalism” created by the move would put the onus of development on Congress-ruled states

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: September 1, 2015 12:52:41 am
land acquisition Bill, Land bill, land ordinance, bjp land bill, bjp government, Nirmala Sitharaman, congress, narendra modi, BJP leader Nirmala Sitharaman

Even as the Congress claimed credit for the NDA government’s retreat on the land acquisition Bill, the BJP argued that the “competitive federalism” created by the move would put the onus of development on Congress-ruled states and would give BJP the political mileage in the states where it rules.

Stressing that the Centre’s move to bring in the 13 excluded central legislation under the purview of the 2013 Act would “put the ball in the states’ court”, the BJP said acquisition of land for infrastructure and development projects would be tougher as compensation is multi-fold and that it has to have a rehabilitation package.

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“Unless the states pass a law to simplify the acquisition, they will not be able to go ahead with the project or it will be a long-term process. This will force the states to make the required changes in law to facilitate acquisition without much hassle. Then the Congress will not blame the BJP-led government for being biased to them,” said a Union Minister, who didn’t wish to be named.

The BJP said that the states where the party rules will make the required changes in the law. But political observers said things won’t be that easy. According to them, even if they are passed with majority votes and get the President’s consent, state laws are prone to legal scrutiny unless it is in line with the existing central laws. Secondly, with the proposed changes already having acquired “an anti-farmer” stamp, it won’t be easy for the ruling party to get it cleared in the state assemblies. Take Rajasthan for example. The BJP enjoys a brute majority, but Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s attempts to bring in changes were stalled by her own legislators.

Meanwhile, to counter Congress charge of “U-turn” on the issue, the BJP fielded two of its senior ministers — Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Rural Development Minister Birender Singh Chaudhary — to remove the apprehensions that the government’s decision would not affect the reform agenda of the Narendra Modi government. The BJP now hopes that the move will open a window for the clearance of GST Bill in Parliament.

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