In a significant victory for the opposition and loss of face for the BJP government, PM Modi formally buried the version of the land bill his government had been championing for the last few months. The ordinance on land acquisition, that washed out the monsoon session of Parliament last month, is set to lapse on the 31st August unless resurrected by the government.
The Modi government had amended the UPA's land acquisition act of 2103--an update of colonial-era law-- and included clauses to ostensibly make it easier for industrialists to acquire land. However severe opposition pressure, led by the Congress, both in Parliament and the streets, managed to paint the Bill as 'anti-farmer.'
There was also a growing fear, among the political leadership, that the BJP's prospects in the forthcoming polls in Bihar may be marred by the government's adherence to the bill. The government's decision to take the bill of life-support means that the Land Acquisition Act of 2013, cleared by the previous UPA government, will be the law of the land.
"We had brought in an ordinance (on land acquisition) which is lapsing on August 31, and I have decided to let it lapse," the Prime Minister said in his radio programme 'Mann ki Baat', "The government will not promulgate land ordinance, but will include 13 points to reform the land acquisition law to benefit farmers."
Modi in his address observed that a lot of misinformation has been spread on the ordinance which has created a sense of fear and confusion in the minds of the farmers and added that suggestions to reform the land acquisition law had come from several quarters including the state governments.
Sources however told NDTV that the government had distanced itself from the land bill in view of the coming Bihar elections. The feedback to the government was that the growing perception that the bill was anti-farmer had taken hold and that it could prove a liability to the BJP in the coming elections.
Bihar Chief minister Nitish Kumar, RJD leader Lalu Prasad and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi are set to come on one platform on Sunday to address the "Swabhiman rally" in Patna.
An ordinance, which has a life span of six months otherwise, has to be re-promulgated if it does not get the endorsement of Parliament within six weeks of the start of a session. Monsoon Session started on July 21 and ended--as a total washout-- on August 3.
The government has so far maintained that re-promulgation was necessary for maintaining its continuity and providing a framework to compensate people whose land is acquired.
Congress, which has been opposing the new land bill brought by the Narendra Modi government, had fiercely attacked it when the ordinance was re-promulgated on May 31.
UPA II had promulgated two ordinances thrice---the 'Re-adjustment of Representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Ordinance, 2013' between January 30, 2013 and Septmeber 27, 2013, and 'The Securities Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013' between July 18, 2013 and March 28, 2014 in the 15th Lok Sabha.
The government had begun a steady climbdown on the re-modified Land Bill, since late February with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that he was ready to make changes if his government's ordinance was deemed anti-farmer.
Modi fought back in perhaps what was his most aggressive speech in Parliament since becoming PM, as he grasped the political danger of being painted anti-farmer by the opposition and some allies of his own party, such as the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal.
Modi's tough talk was a culmination of several several rallies and agitations in Delhi against the proposed amendments to UPA's 2013 Land Acquisition Act.