Two days ago, Punjab CM and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal advised the NDA-ruled Centre to adopt a cautious approach on the land acquisition law.
It now turns out that it was not the first time the BJP ally and state coalition partner had raised the red flag on the contentious issue.
Last month, SAD MPs wrote a letter to the Parliamentary panel examining the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, seeking a “free hand” to the states “for fixing market price of the land to be acquired”.
While stating that land is a “priceless asset” of farmers, the SAD MPs demanded that “not even an inch of it should be acquired by the government without the consent of the farmers/landowners”.
“Land should only be acquired for public sector projects and the government should not get into acquisition for private entities,” stated the letter, written by the six SAD MPs in both houses, excluding Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
On Wednesday, following the note of caution struck by Badal and his J&K counterpart Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, both BJP allies, and a boycott by Congress CMs of a meeting called by PM Narendra Modi on the issue, the Centre appeared to have softened its stand.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley admitted later that “states cannot indefinitely wait” for consensus to emerge on the issue.
Since land figures on the Concurrent List in the Constitution, a law passed by Parliament would prevail over any state legislation, which the SAD and some BJP allies don’t favour.
“We have written to the Parliamentary committee since our view is that farmers shouldn’t suffer and the interests of the landowner should be kept above those of the industry and others. We have suggested this way because we feel the Central government should not get bogged down by such controversies. There is so much that has been promised and needs to be done for the common man, particularly the poor farmers,” said Prem Singh Chandumajra, SAD Lok Sabha MP and party general secretary.
Asked if SAD had issues with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, Chandumajra said, “There are some questions. But, we are hopeful that a way would be found to resolve the stalemate.”
The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha but remains stuck in the Rajya Sabha, where the Congress-led opposition has threatened to block it.
In their letter sent to the Parliamentary panel, which is headed by BJP MP S S Ahluwalia, the SAD MPs cited salient features of the land acquisition policy followed in Punjab, and urged the panel to recommend the state’s policy while finalising a national law.