The Lok Sabha on Tuesday referred the land acquisition bill to a Joint Committee of Parliament after sustained resistance from the Opposition and some of its allies.
Having had to promulgate an ordinance twice on the bill and having failed to get the bill cleared in Parliament, the government referred it to a 30-member committee comprising MPs from both the Houses. The Joint Committee has been mandated to submit its report on the first day of Monsoon Session.
Interestingly, the Congress, which has vociferously opposed the amendments introduced in the bill, was silent on the move. Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi slammed the government for making changes to the UPA bill but did not touch upon the joint committee aspect.
Sources within the party said the Congress was divided on the question of sending the bill to a parliamentary committee. A meeting of Congress leaders on Tuesday morning saw the divergent views coming to the fore.
An influential section of the party, comprising some Rajya Sabha members, was not in favour of demanding or supporting the bill’s referral to the Joint Committee as the party had already taken the stand that it wanted the 2013 bill unchanged. “How can then we be part of a committee and consider the amendments then,” a senior leader asked.
On the other hand, another section felt they should try to block the bill using parliamentary procedures. They, sources said, argued that the committee should be used as a tool to convey the party’s opposition. Their argument was that the Congress had been demanding referral of many bills to the select committees and attacking the government for bypassing standing committees.
“How can we then oppose when the government says let the bill be considered by a parliamentary committee. We can fight within the panel and at the end give dissent notes. Then we can take the fight to the Parliament,” another leader said.
Sources said a section felt the party should continue to hold up Rajya Sabha over the Nitin Gadkari issue, thwarting the government’s attempt to pass the legislation in the Upper House. Finally, the view that prevailed was that the party should not oppose the referral of the bill to the joint committee.