New Delhi: In a spectacular show of unity against the land Bill, members of Parliament (MPs) from Opposition parties, led by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, on Tuesday took out a march to Rashtrapati Bhavan from Parliament. Submitting a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee, Opposition leaders vowed to spread the fight against the “anti-farmer legislation” to every village in the country.
Gandhi said, “We oppose the Modi government on the land Bill and are determined to defeat its designs... We request the President to intervene and ask the Modi government not to go ahead with land Bill in the Rajya Sabha.”
While the government had managed to give the Bill a smooth passage in the Lok Sabha, where it is in a majority, the Upper House has upset its plans. Since Opposition parties had already made public their decision to march to the President’s house, trouble started brewing after Rajya Sabha MPs displayed letters from Delhi Police stating Section 144 of the CrPC had been imposed which directed them not to go ahead with the march. Sensing the belligerence in the Opposition ranks, the government came down a few notches and assured angry Rajya Sabha MPs that the prohibitory orders had been removed; they were free to march down Raisina Hill.
Over 100 MPs from Congress, SP, Trinamool Congress, Left parties, Nationalist Congress Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Janata Dal (United) walked half-a-kilometre from Parliament House to Rashtrapati Bhavan; All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Biju Janata Dal and the Bahujan Samaj Party MPs stayed away.
After submitting a memorandum to President Mukherjee Sonia Gandhi addressed the media, reiterating their (Opposition) intent to oppose the land bill. "We urge the government not to go ahead with the bill and the amendments in the Rajya Sabha," she said. In a frontal attack on the government she said, "All secular, democratic and forward-looking forces are determined to defeat the Modi government's designs to promote divisions and disharmony."
Senior leader of JD(U) Sharad Yadav warned the NDA-led government, "We got 69 per cent of the vote in the 2014 poll and the Modi sarkar got only 31 per cent." Promising to spread the protests nationwide, Yadav described the bill as a "Land snatching ordinance and reiterated "they would oppose it both within and outside Parliament".
The Congress has demanded that the government bring back its 2013 legislation and is no mood to allow any amendments. The party had already been protesting countrywide against the bill, with its party MPs and Youth Congress workers protesting at Jantar Mantar yesterday. The party sees in the land bill an opportunity to resurrect itself. It was party Vice President Rahul Gandhi who had led started the fight for the UPA's land bill from Bhatta Parsaul.
Now managing to get all principle Opposition parties on board, the Congress is determined not to give up the fight; deepening the fault lines between the government and the Opposition.
The government was intent to get the bill cleared as the Ordinance lapses on April 5 but the belligerence of the Opposition has wrecked its plans. It could now go in for re-promulgating the Ordinance.