NEW DELHI — Amid stiff opposition to government's move to amend the land acquisition Act, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today made it clear that there was no going back. The BJP was, at the same time, preparing for discussions with NDA partners to make the legislation more "effective" and "farmer-friendly".
At the meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Party today, Modi said the bill will benefit farmers and that the amendments brought by his government were based on suggestions and demands made by Congress-ruled states and their chief ministers. He asked party MPs to "bust the myths" propagated by Opposition parties on it, sources said quoting the Prime Minister.
To make the land ordinance bill more effective in favour of farmers, the BJP and NDA leaders will meet today evening to discuss and work out means to further improve it.
"It was reiterated at the Parliamentary Party that we are for the welfare of farmers and every step that this government will take will be for the welfare of farmers, for the welfare of the poor and the downtrodden," Union Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy told reporters after the meeting.
The sources said the Prime Minister made it clear that the BJP stood for the welfare of farmers and was committed to them.
He told the MPs to remove the "myths" allegedly propagated by opposition parties as the proposed bill was good for the country and farmers would benefit from it.
The sources added that the Prime Minister told MPs that there was need to correct the "wrong-doings" of the previous governments, while noting that BJP can never take an "anti-farmer" stand on the bill.
"A meeting of Parliamentarians of NDA, including those of the party, will be held to deliberate on issues on how to make the land acquisition bill more effective so as to benefit the farmers, the poor and the downtrodden. For this, a discussion will take place this evening between MPs and concerned Ministers of these departments," Rudy said. .
"It is going to be a major support to all those states," Rudy said quoting Goyal at the meeting.
On the 'Pehel' scheme for cash transfer to LPG consumers, Pradhan said it was the largest cash subsidy scheme that benefits over 10 crore families, which has never been done anywhere in the world.
Quoting the Oil Minister, Rudy said he termed it as the "most outstanding" scheme of the government.
Rudy said Goyal told the meeting that the "arbitrariness and the corruption" in the coal block allocation during the UPA government stands exposed now. He said the Prime Minister did suggest that the money coming from the auction of coal blocks should go to the states where coal blocks are located and this would be a major boost to these state.
"The states would benefit financially through the coal block auctions," he said.
Facing flak from a united Opposition in Rajya Sabha, the government expressed its intent to hold discussion with all parties to find a way out on the new land bill to replace the contentious ordinance on the issue.
As members from Congress, Left, Trinamool Congress, SP, BSP and JD-U targetted the government over provisions of the land ordinance calling it "anti-farmer" and aimed at "benefitting corporates", Leader of the House Arun Jaitley assured them that he would convey the suggestion to the concerned minister to "hold discussions with parties" on the issue.
The House resumed its normal business at noon after the Finance Minister's assurance following a heated discussion which went on for an hour.
Jaitley's remarks came in response to the comments of Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav, who said the government should talk to all parties and find a way out so that farmers' interests are protected while development activities are carried out.
Yadav said that while it is true that at times acquiring land becomes difficult but a way should have been found out through discussions. "You should have taken the Opposition into confidence," he said.
"I do not want a deadlock in Parliament. You talk to all parties and find a way out," he said. K C Tyagi from JD-U also supported Yadav's demand for a discussion on the issue at an all-party meet.
Jaitley later said that Yadav has made some suggestions in the right spirit. "Responding in the same spirit, I will convey his suggestions to the minister concerned to have discussion with parties."
Deputy Leader of Congress Anand Sharma said that since Government has acknowledged the need to consult all parties, "he (Jaitley) should go a step further" and say that "till consultations are completed, the ordinance will remain suspended". To this, Jaitley was seen waving his hand indicating a negative response.
Soon after obituary references and listed papers laid on the table in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma (Cong) said Congress and three other parties have given a notice under rule 267 for suspension of the business as the government has bypassed Parliament to amend a law that was passed in 2013 through consensus of all parties including BJP.
Responding to this, Jaitley said 639 ordinances had been promulgated since Independence, of which 80 per cent under Congress rule.
Meanwhile, BJP President Amit Shah formed an eight-member committee to seek farmers' suggestions on the proposed land acquisition legislation which has been stoutly opposed by several farmers' organisations.
The committee, of which former Union Minister Satyapal Malik is the convener, will hold discussions with farmers and other organisations on land acquisition. The Committee comprises seven party MPs, including Malik, and has a chartered accountant too. The other members of the Committee are MPs Bhupender Yadav, Ram Narayan Dudi, Hukam Dev Narayan, Rakesh Singh, Sanjay Dhotre and Suresh Angadi, besides a chartered accountant Gopal Agarwal.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal joined Anna Hazare on his second day of protest against the contentious land ordinance and shared the dais with the social activist. Kejriwal was among a host of leaders cutting across party lines who joined the agitation on a day the government introduced the contentious land acquisition bill in Lok Sabha amid a walk out by the opposition.
Though Hazare had earlier ruled out sharing stage with any politician, political leaders including CPI's Atul Anjan and Vaiko of MDMK were among those sitting on the dais. Before beginning his protest today, Hazare said people from political parties were welcome to join the agitators but will not share the stage with him and made it clear that he would not allow any political colour to the agitation.