THE BJP government in Karnataka on Tuesday managed to get a land ownership reforms Bill passed in the state legislative council with support of the opposition JD(S) even as the Congress voted against the Bill.
The Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2020 had earlier been stalled in the Council despite the legislative assembly – the lower house – clearing it. The Bill sought to remove Sections 79 A, B and C of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961, which restricted farm land purchases only to agriculturists and to those earning below Rs 2 lakh per annum.
On Tuesday, the Bill, which also received the support of the JD(S) in the assembly, was passed in the 75-member council, with 37 votes in its favour.
The BJP is the largest party in the council with 31 members, while the Congress has 28 and the JD(S) 14. There are four Independent members.
The Bill was passed in the assembly in September even as the opposition Congress staged a walkout, calling it a “death warrant” for farmers. It could not be taken up for voting in the council in September as the session was adjourned by the Chairman with discussions not concluded.
Section 79 A of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961, which is now repealed, restricted farm land purchase to persons earning below Rs two lakh per annum while 79 B restricted rights to purchase of agricultural land to agriculturists and Section 79 C allowed investigations of violations of Section 79 A and B of the law. On July 13, the state government had promulgated an Ordinance with the assent of the Governor to amend laws restricting the sale of agricultural land.
State Revenue Minister R Ashok, who piloted the Bill, said during discussions that the sections sought to be repealed were only facilitating corruption in the offices of land registrars and tehsildars while not benefiting farmers wanting to sell their land.
Meanwhile, the BJP has moved a no-confidence motion against the council Chairman, who was elected during the tenure of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government between 2018 and 2019. It issued a notice to move the motion in what is seen as an effort to ensure smooth passage of several Bills that the party is proposing for clearance after gaining an upper hand in the Council. The party’s strength went up from 27 to 31 after the November polls.
In the monsoon session, the BJP government suffered setbacks in the council. A Bill for labour law reform was defeated and the land reform and farm reform laws were not taken up despite the assembly passing the Bills. BJP sources said the ruling party is hoping to get a Chairman of its choice in the council with support of the JD(S). It also expects the the opposition party to help in passing the Bills.
“The JD(S) may not vote in favour of the APMC amendment Act but they may abstain from voting and this will help us,” a BJP MLC said on Tuesday.
The BJP has also proposed re-introduction of the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, which was passed in the legislature in 2010 when the BJP was in power but was shelved in 2013 by the Congress after it did not receive the Governor’s assent.