New Delhi: Lok Sabha is set to witness a confrontation over Land Acquisition Bill on Tuesday when it is taken up for voting with opposition bent on opposing it even as the government again offered to make changes in the legislation in the "larger interest" of the farming community.
NDA partner Shiv Sena, meanwhile, was ambivalent on the issue, even though its support will hardly matter in the Lower House where BJP has majority on its own.
Toughening its stand, Congress today decided that it will vote against the bill unless it is sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee or presented in the original form as passed in 2013.
It decided to issue a three-line whip to its members in the Lower House asking them to be present and vote against the measure.
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Sonia Gandhi which was attended by the Lok Sabha MPs and some other senior party leaders to discuss the strategy over the bill.
Congress took the decision even as Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said in Lok Sabha today that the "Government is willing to go in for amendment in the (land) bill in the larger interest of the community and the country."
He made the offer while intervening in the debate on the bill to replace the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance.
His intervention came amid stiff opposition to the bill even as Congress and some other parties demanded that it be referred to a parliamentary standing committee for threadbare scrutiny.
Expressing the willingness of his government to consider the 52 amendments moved by members, he hoped that Rural Development Minister Birender Singh will look into the possibility of reducing the land for industrial corridors being planned to boost manufacturing sector in the country.
Naidu also suggested creating a "bank" of barren land for acquisition and said first such land should be used for setting up of industrial projects.
Indications of possible confrontation between the government and the Congress over the measure were visible earlier in the day, when the main Opposition party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "personal adamance" for the showdown.
As the Lower House took up debate on the new land bill
today, Opposition slammed the government over the measure saying it is "draconian" and "anti-poor" provisions would have a deleterious effect on India's food security.
The Opposition members, ranging from the Congress and Trinamool Congress (TMC) to the Left, BJD and AIADMK, launched a tirade against the government.
Several opposition members particularly opposed the NDA government's move to do away with Section 2 and 3A of the existing land acquisition law which provided for social impact assessment before land transfer and safeguarding the interest of farmers.
The Land Acquisition Bill, which seeks to replace an Ordinance issued in December to amend the Land Act 2013, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on February 24.
Giving a shot in arm to the Opposition, NDA ally Shiv Sena said it has not taken any decision on supporting the legislation or otherwise.
"We have given our suggestions to the Prime Minister in writing. We will act according to the direction of the party chief Uddhav Thackeray," party leader Sanjay Raut told PTI, indicating that the bill in its present form was not acceptable to the party.
Shiv Sena is the second largest constituent of the BJP led NDA, having 18 members in the Lower House and three in the Upper House. Modi dispensation has the numbers in the Lok Sabha to see the bill through but is not in a majority in the Rajya Sabha.
The Opposition strategy appears to be to keep the bill pending in the Rajya Sabha without rejecting it so as to torpedo possible plans of the government to call a joint session.
A measure has to be passed in one House and get defeated in the other to enable it to be brought up in a joint session for passage.