The speeches may not have soared to heights once so familiar to the Lok Sabha but the opposition and treasury benches were at their combative best Tuesday, trading charges and catcalls on whether the government’s amendments to the 2013 land acquisition law had “taken away its soul” or “restored it”.
In the debate on the land amendment bill, the government, after being repeatedly pounded by the opposition, hit back, turning the spotlight on acquisition in Haryana, until recently ruled by the Congress, and SP-ruled UP. Replying to an eight-hour debate over two days — the opposition benches were minus Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav while Prime Minister Narendra Modi is abroad — Rural Development Minister Birender Singh said: “You removed the soul, we are just restoring it”.
“Just to get the support of the farming community, they say the Bhatta-Parsaul issue is very important. When the farmer is being looted in Haryana and 65,000 acres is being acquired, there is no mention of that. This kind of politics will not do… Out of 65,000 acres, 24,000 acres of land was given to private owners,” he said.
As Deepender Singh Hooda, whose father was Haryana CM until last year, and Mulayam’s nephew Dharmendra Yadav protested, Singh continued: “In June last year (at a meeting)… the UP government said please finish the consent clause, it is not good… Seven secretaries represented Haryana and they said if the consent clause continues, if the social impact assessment provision remains, we will not be able to acquire land… In UP, we have an instance of acquisition proceedings starting on December 31 and finishing on December 31.”
A heated exchange with Jyotiraditya Scindia followed. Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh placated Singh while M Venkaiah Naidu urged him to continue, “come to the subject”. Singh closed on a conciliatory note, perhaps aware aggression would create problems for the bill in Rajya Sabha. “If you have a good suggestion, please let me know,” he told the opposition.
Earlier, Gaurav Gogoi of the Congress, who opened the opposition attack, questioned the government on the hurry to bring the bill. “The 2013 Act took care of the grievances of the farmer… In nine months, your government has thrown it out… Industrialists ask you to bend and you forfeit the rights of the farmers,” he said.
Dinesh Trivedi (Trinamool) wondered whether the opposition should thank the government. “Should we be grateful to them? This bill has united the entire opposition.” He read the BJP manifesto which had promised a national land use policy. “If you were a private company, had advertised one thing and given another, you know what would have been your fate,” he said.