Our opposition on Land Bill is not opportunistic or political: Jairam Ramesh

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Updated: Apr 21, 2015, 09:21 AM IST

Congress leader and former environment minister Jairam Ramesh said that the opposition is based on principles, not on politics.

Jairam Ramesh, in an exclusive interview with Zee Business Editor Amish Devgan,  spoke candidly on the land acquisition bill and other issues concerning the Congress Party.

Excerpts...

Why is Congress against the Land Bill?

The opposition is based on principles, not politics. Laws in 2013 were made from mutual understanding including BJP - Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley etc. But now, within 6-7 months, there have been so many amendments. Gadkari and others want to debate upon it. We are not refusing to discuss. But discussion happens on the basis of truth, not lies. We don't want private companies to get land without farmers' approval. This was our principle in 2013 which has been dismissed. Social impact assessment should be done before land acquisition. According to the 2013 law, it should've been but it's been removed now. Within 5 years, if the acquired land is not used, it should be returned to the farmers. But that's also removed now. Land acquired in 1894 and farmers who didn't accept the compensation, they were to get 4 times of the compensation in our bill, but that provision has also been removed. If Gadkari is saying that irrigation schemes might get delayed and the development would come to a hault, then he hasn't read the law properly. For Governmental projects, consent clause cannot be applied. Only social impact assessment needs to be done. And in section 40 it has been written for security, that neither consent law nor social impact assessment are required.

Gadkari has repeatedly offered to have a discussion. And you are also ready. So why don't you both use Zee as a platform for it?

There is still democracy in our country, though there are still some attempt of dictatorship. In a democracy, the right place for dialogue is in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha. It shouldn't be limited to TV channels. Changes are being enforced in a dictatorial way, and they are not addressed in the Rajya Sabha. It has not been brought to Rajya Sabha because the government knows that they can't get it passed there.

Arun Jaitley in an interview said that opposition can delay the bill but they cannot stop it.

I can't say anything about what the government will do. But we will oppose it in the Parliament and outside because our opposition is not opportunistic or political. Sonia Gandhi wrote a 7-page letter to Gadkariji, stating our objections. On one hand, they are objecting on the 2013 bill on the basis of provisions and on the other hand they are lying. One lie is that we are bringing changes and there will be increase in compensation for farmers. But the fact is, in the 2013 law, compensation was increased four-fold and there was facility for rehabilitation and relocation too. The PM or Jaitley are not doing anyone a favor. These were our provisions. There was also employment for farm labourer. They are not giving anything new.

FM said that UPA ruined the country's economy and added that congress doesn't want to empower the farmers.

Why is the farmers association angry? In every state that I went –Bhatta parsol, MP, Champaran etc –I saw that farmers association are angry with the changes made. Why are the allies of NDA also against these changes? Why are even some RSS people and some of BJP's own MPs against it? I am saying it on the basis of the facts that these changes are detrimental to the farmers. They will force land acquisition even further. These tyrannical changes are being forced upon the farmers. It took us 2 years to make rules in 2013. Why was "sthayi samiti" not considered? There is a way of doing things in the Parliament. Whenever any changes are made, the revised one is sent to the “sthayi samiti". Why wasn't it sent in this case? Our bill was sent to the "sthayi samiti" and its leader was BJP's Sumitra Mahajan. It was debated for 13 months before it was made. And now, its not being sent to the "sthayi samiti" and it is being made without an all party meet. On the contrary they should call a meeting, talk to the parties, have a debate. You can't point a gun and ask for a debate. You get the ordinance passed twice but now that there's criticism, you think it needs to be debated. It should've been done before.

Arun Jaitley says that the way UPA ruined the economy, they are trying to do it this time too. Modi said that the opposition is not in a habit of listening and are spreading illusions.

Please tell Modi that it is very surprising because he can only speak but can't listen. Nowadays he is speaking more in foreign countries than in his own. He spoke in "mann ki baat" but it was all wrong whatever he said. He said they have increased the compensation 4 times. It was already done in the 2013 law. He said he was providing relief to the farmers through these laws. He also said another big lie. 13 clauses were kept out of this law but through this law only we increased compensation. In the section 105 of the 2013 law, it is written that within 1 year of the land being acquired for infrastructure, the compensation and R&R should be increased. PM has not done any favour. He has just followed the law.

There is a serious allegation on congress. That you are opposing land bill because you are against development. This is BJP's counter allegation on you. Secondly you people feel that politically through land bill you can make a big comeback.

We are not a saintly (sanyasi) organisation, we are not an NGO, we are a political party. We have been a main political party of our country and want to remain that. We have got a political issue but we are not opposing just because of political reasons. I told you in detail, Sonia ji has tried explaing in a 6 page letter to Gadkari... that what are the "saidhantik" (principle) problems.

So there is also a political motive behind it.

Of course there is a political motive. The basic principle of the 2013 law has been changed... it goes against our policies so to oppose it is but natural for us.

On one side you are opposing land bill while on the other hand Haryana govt gave so much land to Robert Vadra.

You are changing issues here. Stay on land acquisition only. We gave support to insurance bill. Fine, we voted against coal bill and mineral bill but atleast there was a debate in the Parliament and we put across our point of view. That is democracy. This is a govt for "poonjipati himayati".

BJP says sprectrum scam was done by your govt, sprectrum was sold for peanuts and same was with coal mines. BJP did an auction for Rs 2 lakh crore. Now, who is favouring corporate India here?

On one hand was Lal Bahadur Shastri of Congress, second PM of India who gave the slogan of jai jawan jai kisan. On the other hand is Narendra Modi whose slogan is "jai Adani jai Ambani". That is the difference. See we have debated it and time will tell the truth. We are not against auctions. Dr Manmohan Singh was not against auctions. Whereas BJP'S Chief Ministers were against auction. Though, now a days even the PM is auctioning his 10 lakh rupees coat. Rs. 4.5 cr has been received through that auctioning. Auction everything. The country is getting auctioned.

Dr Manmohan singh is also one of the accused.

Supreme Court has given a stay on that. Dr Manmohan Singh never opposed auction. It was BJP's Chief Ministers who gave it in writing.

But Congress ministers, CMs wrote that if 2013 bill will come then there will be no development in our states.

I have already told you that in the 2013 law there wasn't "sarv sammati" (unanimous agreement) but "aam sehemati" (common agreement). We spoke to everyone... States, organisations of civil society, industry organisations like FICCI and CII. We took everyone's opinion and it took us 2 years.

But industry also said if there is a bill like that then there will be no work in the country.

See on one hand there is criticism that 2013 law is not progressive. On the other hand there is criticism that its against industrialisation and urbanisation. So if there are both these criticisms then its clear that we have done something right. And that we have taken a middle path.

What are your 3 biggest oppositions?

It is government's responsibility to speak to the opposition with an open heart. Their intentions should be pure and they should take suggestions and go to "sthayi samiti". There should be a discussion in sthayi samiti. Dont rush it up. We didn't rush the 2013 law. It took us 2 years.

Tell me quickly on 3 biggest opposing points.

It's not my job. You ask the government what have they done to get ' aam sahmati". Only by putting allegatins you can't get " aam sehmati".

BJP says you only talk about farmers whereas we work for farmers.

Then why is the Biggest farmer association "bhartiya kisaan union" against it. Why associations and organisations with BJP including some in sangh parivar against it?

But they said that the government has now agreed to our terms and we are not against it.

That is not true. If the government wants then they should leave the rush and talk to everyone with open heart and biggest of all send it to " sthayi samiti" which is the right process in democracy. But the process is not being followed because in the last 9 moths there has been lot of (vidhayaks) bills which have not been sent to sthayi samiti. This is destroying the democracy. Had we got a vidheyak without sthayi committee, Arun Jaitely and Sushma Swaraj would have called it murder of democracy. They are actually doing it now.

I want to know, has Janta Dal United lowered the importance of Congress party as opposition.

See they have their ideologies. But in today's environment I feel all opposition parties want to stop BJP. The way democracy is weakened in Modi government we should be opposing that. Janta based parties have a different identity and Congress party has a different identity.

But don't you think that with Janta Dal uniting, Congress will get lesser mileage?

That only time will tell. But on any issue that we can fight together, for example land acquisition issue, we will fight together.

BJP is saying that congress will have to pay the result for opposing land acquisition bill, like they lost in Delhi, though even BJP lost in Delhi, they will pay for it in Bihar and UP.

I am going to various states, talking to various associations, talking to farmers association and what I feel today is that the BJP government is "poonjipati himaayati" and against farmers. And we are getting support from various sections on this. But weather this support will be profitable for us in elections is a different matter. But today I can say with confidence that the stand taken by Congress party and different parties is that they are against the changes in land acquisition law. Looking at that I dont think it is going to harm us. But only time will tell if it will be profitable for us during elections or not.

You commented on Modi's foreign tours but he is saying that it is giving India a new image?

In the last one year he has gone to 14 countries. He has become a "ghumantu PM" and also the one who does fashion parade.

What do you have to say on one year of Modi government as a senior congress leader?

He has forgotten the promises, on the basis of which he had come to power. Issues like black money, accounts for everyone and 15 lakh deposit in each account are being called as "chunavi jumla" by Amit shah. So they have come to power on the basis of " chunavi jumla". And in a year whatever they are claiming, I feel its repackaging. They can keep doing this. I feel its going to harm our country in the next 4 to 5 years. We can't feel that right now but the path taken by the FM during  this budget will put the entire burden on the state that is not in favour of our country.

But they are also giving more power to the states. Now in central taxes their share has increased from 32% to 42%.

Its one and the same thing and I would say this is also a "bhram" (illusion).

In our interview, Arun jaitely said that the biggest achievement is that in the last 11 months people have forgotten the concept of corruption.

That is not true. They haven't forgotten corruption. This government is for poonjipati. Some poonjipatis have received favours. And the policies that they are taking especially in the issue of land acquisitio, are totally against the farmers and in favour of the poonjipatis.

You gave an interview to an international media during 2014 elections and you said that Congress is likee a giant elephant and Rahul gandhi is like a marathon man and PM is like a fox. Now this fox is going ahead.

Rahul is participating in the rally on 19th. For us Sonia ji is the president and Rahul is the VP.

So, will there be a change of guard?

For us Sonia ji is the president. And on land acquisition she has taken lot of steps. She has gone to the Rashtrapati Bhawan. And our PM is wearing different clothes and touring the world, Sonia ji just went to Rajasthan, Punjab. Haryana, UP. She went to different states and visited farmers in their difficult times.

But some people are with Sonia ji and some with Rahul Gandhi?

That is not true. This may be media's interpretation. Everyone is with Sonia ji and Rahul ji. Everyone in the Congress knows Sonia ji is the president and Rahul ji is the VP. Talks of 2 camps 2 generations etc is wrong. There is only 1 camp - Congress camp. There will be a day when Rahul ji will become the president.

When will that day come?

How would I know? I can't say whether that will happens in 2015 or 2016. It depends on Sonia ji, Rahul ji and Congress's working committee. It will happen one day for sure but till that time Sonia ji is the president and Rahul ji is the VP.

With full responsibility, you are saying that all is well in Congress.

In 2014 Lok Sabha elections we got a major setback then after that even in different states and vidhaan Sabha elections also, we got a setback. So there is a big challenge for us. The situation is very critical. There are lots of challenges but I am sure we have power and patience. There is a new vigor in us. We have got new oxygen and this land acquisition has come like a sanjeevni for us. But we should not loose this chance, we should with discipline and unity take it up. See there can be different point of views and thinkings but its 100% wrong to say that there are 2 camps.