The National Democratic Alliance government finds itself in a fix after Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allowed the joint committee of Parliament scrutinising the land acquisition bill to seek the views of state governments on the contentious legislation.

After getting the green signal from the Speaker, the committee chairman, Bharatiya Janata Party MP SS Ahluwalia, has written to state governments seeking their views and suggestions on the various provisions of the contentious bill since they are the main stakeholders in the legislation’s implementation.

Confirming this, Ahluwalia told that the committee should get the necessary feedback at the earliest as the committee has to submit its report in the beginning of the monsoon session of Parliament, which is slated to commence by the end of July.

However, there is some apprehension in the BJP following the Speaker’s consent as many of its own chief ministers and allies are not happy with the amended bill, particularly the decision to do away the consent clause and social impact assessment.

Reservations among allies

Ruling party leaders and MPs privately admit that it has become difficult for them to defend these amendments because the opposition has succeeded in sending out the message that the land bill had been changed by the NDA government to benefit its friends in the corporate sector.

BJP partner Shiromani Akali Dal has also expressed its reservations about the deletion of the consent clause and has suggested that the bill should contain specific provisions giving autonomy to state governments in such matters.

“I agree getting the consent of 80% farmers whose land is to be acquired is an uphill task but we have to arrive at a compromise between this figure and 0%,” remarked a senior BJP office bearer.

When opposition members on the joint parliamentary committee proposed that they should seek the views of state governments, Ahluwalia had informed the panel that before writing to the state governments he would first have to get the Speaker’s consent.

Building up support

Now that the Speaker has given her permission and Ahluwalia has written to the state governments, the government’s trouble-shooters are working overtime to ensure that the views of their chief ministers are in sync with that of the Centre.

The ruling alliance hopes to shore up support for the contentious legislation by getting its chief ministers to speak up for the amended bill. The BJP is hoping that the views of their chief ministers will prevail as they outnumber their counterparts from opposition-ruled states.

The Congress has only nine chief ministers but it is depending on the support of West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, Bihar’s Nitish Kumar and Uttar Pradesh’s Akhilesh Yadav. Although Odisha and Tamil Nadu chief ministers Naveen Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa have opposed the NDA land bill, the NDA can persuade them to switch sides.

The Congress, however, is determined to reject the proposed amendments to the bill. The Congress reiterated its objections to the NDA land bill at its chief ministers conclave earlier this week. A resolution adopted at the meeting said: "The meeting of chief ministers of Congress ruled states chaired by the Congress president rejects the proposed amendments to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, and also the recommended dilutions in the National Food Security Act, 2013."

It became necessary for the Congress to clear the air and reiterate its position as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP ministers have publicly stated that opposition chief ministers had supported the Centre’s decision to amend the land bill and had even sent letters of consent.

Farmer groups discontent

Modi had recently said that after the NDA came to power, it realised “there were certain points in the law that would have made the farmers' situation worse if we did not bring in the ordinance. Also, chief ministers of several states ruled by various parties came to demand changes in the law, including Kerala. We could not have made it a point of ego to say that we won't change the law just because we supported it in 2013. Our intention is to amend only those provisions in the 2013 act that militate against the process of growth and are against the interest of farmers".

While the views of state governments are awaited, representatives of various farmers' bodies have placed their objections to the amended land bill before the parliamentary panel.

A memorandum submitted to the committee by the Rashtriya Kisan Union, Kisan Mazdoor Sangthan of Uttar Pradesh, Bhartiya Kisan Union and other organisations said the NDA bill failed to protect the interests of farmers.

Panel members told that they had received as many as 300 letters from farmers’ organisations but none had supported the bill.