New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government, under pressure from within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as also from opposition parties, could allow the contentious land acquisition ordinance to lapse. The Cabinet is likely to take a final call on the matter before the ordinance lapses on April 5.
The opposition, which has been slamming the government for unleashing an ordinance raj, is likely to interpret the move as its victory. The government strategists, however, say the move to allow the Bill to lapse will be a temporary tactical retreat to consult with all stakeholders before it is introduced for discussion in the Rajya Sabha once Parliament reconvenes on April 20 to continue its Budget session after a month-long recess.
The Lok Sabha has already passed the Bill.The government is hopeful of finding support from some among the Opposition parties on the land Bill. Congress President Sonia Gandhi had led a united opposition protest march from Parliament to Rashtrapati Bhavan earlier this week to protest the land Bill.
However, the opposition unity lay in tatters by the end of the week with several of non-Congress and non-Left parties on Friday supporting the mines and minerals and coal Bills in the Rajya Sabha. Earlier, senior government strategists had mulled proroguing one of the two Houses in the middle of the recess - a rare tool that a senior minister claimed to have been used at least a dozen times in the past - to allow the government to re-promulgate the ordinance.
Article 123 of the Constitution empowers the government to promulgate or re-promulgate an ordinance only when either of the two Houses of Parliament is not in session. A 'recess' qualifies as the two Houses being in session.The land ordinance was one of the half-a-dozen ordinances the government had promulgated in end December and early January to demonstrate its commitment to economic reforms. After the passage of the mines and minerals as well as the coal Bills on Friday and of the Insurance Bill earlier, the land Bill is now the solitary of the government’s reform oriented ordinances yet to be passed by both the Houses.
The Lok Sabha, where the government has a comfortable majority, passed the land Bill on March 11. But it faces the Rajya Sabha hurdle where the government is in a minority.
Letting the ordinance lapse will, apart from government offering an olive branch to some in the opposition, also reassure Members of Parliament of the BJP and its other allies who fear the opposition propaganda of the Bill being “anti-farmer” and “pro-corporate” could hurt the BJP in the Assembly elections in Bihar later this year.
The government is hopeful that it could win over some of the non-Congress and non-Left opposition parties like the Biju Janata Dal, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Nationalist Congress Party and others to its point of view on the land Bill, just as these parties supported the government on the mines and minerals as well as the coal Bills.The Lok Sabha had passed the land Bill with nine government-sponsored amendments that had helped the government bring its allies like the Shiromani Akali Dal on board.