In the first display of opposition unity against the Modi government, leaders of 14 political parties led by Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday marched from Parliament to Rashtrapati Bhavan against amendments to the land acquisition act and pledged to continue their “do or die” battle.
A delegation of 26 leaders including former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and H D Deve Gowda met President Pranab Mukherjee and urged him to protect the farmers’ interests by impressing upon the Modi government “not to go ahead with the amendments in the Rajya Sabha” saying they were aimed at promoting “divisions and social disharmony”.
This is the first time Opposition parties have come together in such large numbers against the BJP-led government since the Lok Sabha election defeat last year.
“We have come together to oppose the Narendra Modi government’s amendments to the right of fair compensation and transparency in Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation resettlement act 2013.
“All the progressive, secular, democratic and forward looking forces are determined to defeat the Modi government’s design to promote divisions and social disharmony.
“We have come to the President to request him to intervene to protect the interest of our farmers and to impress upon Modi government not to go ahead with the amendments in the Rajya Sabha. These are some of the reasons for which we have come here,” Gandhi told the media after the delegation met the President.
JD-U leader Sharad Yadav, coordinator for the march, declared that it will be a fight to finish as the bill “is not only anti-farmer but also anti India”.
Earlier, over 100 Opposition MPs belonging to major political parties including JD(U), Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress, CPI and CPI(M), NCP, AAP and INLD marched a distance of one km over the Raisina Hill to the Presidential Estate.
Earlier Delhi police objected to the march citing imposition of regulatory orders in the area but later relented when the leaders insisted on the march.
The land acquisition law, the brain child of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council during the UPA regime had stringent provisions against acquisition of farmers’ land.
But the Modi government has amended some of the provisions to ease acquisition of land for industrialisation through an ordinance. The government is facing problems in ensuring its passage in Rajya Sabha where it does not have the numbers.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress Leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Ramgopal Yadav (SP), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), D Raja (CPI), Derek O’ Brien (Trinamool), Kanimozhi (DMK), Dushyant Chautala (INLD), Praful Patel (NCP), Dharamvir Gandhi (AAP), E Ahmed (IUML), Joy Abraham (Kerala Congress-M) and Jay Prakash Yadav (RJD) were among the leaders, who met the President.
Earlier during the march, the leaders shouted anti-government slogans resolving to continue their opposition till the Modi government drops changes in the 2013 Bill.
In the memorandum, the party said the amendments to the ordinance have been approved by the Lok Sabha because the BJP has a majority there.
They now await consideration of the Rajya Sabha but the amendments should have been first considered by the Standing Committee.
“That did not happen since the Modi sarkar is intent on destroying the institutions of Standing Committees and Select Committees itself,” the leaders said.
The memorandum said that the amendments do away with pre-notification social impact assessment (SIA), which is an essential safeguard to prevent diversion of acquired land, to prevent acquisition of excess land and to ensure that acquisition of multi-crop irrigated land would only be a demonstrable last resort, if at all.
The SIA to be carried out in no more than six months would also identify livelihood losers entitled to compensation and relief and rehabilitation benefits, it said.