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Modi’s climb down an electoral ploy

Highlights

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Sunday in his direct- to-nation address - Mann ki Baat - that the land ordinance would go,

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Sunday in his direct- to-nation address - Mann ki Baat - that the land ordinance would go, indicating a climb down in the face of stiff opposition from the rivals, he had the Bihar audience in mind more than any. Having re-promulgated the ordinance thrice to bring changes to the 2013 UPA-II Land Bill, the Modi-led government had agreed to drop most of its contentious amendments made to the Land Acquisition Act earlier. The Joint Committee of Parliament had moved amendments to bring back social impact assessment and consent clause, as sought by the Opposition.

Reports then suggested that all the 11 members in the committee agreed to bring back the two clauses. It was planned then that the panel chaired by the BJP MP, S S Ahluwalia, would come out with a consensus before August 7. That was at the beginning of the now infamous Monsoon Session. But every effort of the government miserably failed as Modi's very attitude was a stumbling block. Modi’s announcement was described as a bow down to nation’s Mann ki Baat by the Nitish-Lalu-Sonia combine at their mega Patna rally. While it could be so, there is little to suggest that Modi would abandon his reforms path or that he has heard the voice of the people.

The Opposition perhaps has not read the full text of Modi's speech. His move was not just a bow down but an even worse case of political opportunism. We should note that his announcement to allow the land ordinance to lapse came with riders. First, he said there was an attempt to create a fear psychosis among the farmers through falsehood, hence he was resorting to it. Closely following the same was an even more blame-shifting that the amendments were brought in by the States. Modi is well aware of the fact that the land issue would be the mainstay of the Bihar Swaabhiman campaign. Hence, he chose to directly address the farmers ahead of it in asking them not to entertain any fears due to the false campaign by some quarters and in assuring them that the ordinance would be allowed to lapse.

This only strengthens yet another charge of the opposition that Modi either fears the Parliament or has no respect for such institutions. Why did not Modi listen to the voice of the Parliament earlier? Or was it that his own surveys in Bihar told him that Bihar's Mann ki Baat could be different from his own? On the other hand, even the RSS had advised the Government to rethink the issue. This development certainly emboldens the democratic forces to take on the politics of obstinacy and non-accommodation with greater conviction, henceforth. Should that suffice to keep alive the voice of dissent is to be seen in the future. Democratic forces must be wary of any anti-people anti-farmer policies. The Land Bill is an essential tool for Modi to usher in his Gujarat style of unequal development.

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