All Chief Ministers of Congress ruled states, Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa stayed away from NITI Aayog meet in the capital on Wednesday. The meet was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Among the important things, discussion over Land Acquisition Bill topped the agenda, with Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues defending the contentious bill.
“The political deadlock over land acquisition (law) is seriously impacting rural development, including the creation of schools, hospitals, roads and irrigation projects,” PM Modi said addressing the meet.
“Political considerations should not come in the way of a solution that would facilitate development of rural areas, and greater prosperity for farmers,” the Prime Minister added.
The Governing Council of NITI Aayog, which comprises all Chief Ministers and Lt Governors of Union Territories and is headed by the Prime Minister, met on Wednesday to take up various issues concerning the states, including the contentious Land Acquisition Bill. Though, only 16 chief ministers attended the meet but significantly it included Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and even Left-ruled Tripura’s CM Manik Sarkar.
But the issue of several chief ministers “boycotting” the NITI Aayog meet attracted attention.
“Chief Ministers who boycotted NITI Aayog meeting must introspect whether their action was in sync with spirit of cooperative federalism,” Union Minister Arun Jaitley remarked in a press conference held in New Delhi after the NITI Aayog meet.
This was the Prime Minister’s first big engagement after his return from the 8-day tour of Central Asia and Russia early on Wednesday morning.
The Land Acquisition Bill has lately been a cause of concern for the BJP-led NDA government. The opposition, especially the Congress party, has been protesting against the bill both inside and outside the Parliament ever since the incumbent government brought an Ordinance amending the law passed in 2013 by the Congress-led UPA. Several farmer unions and other organisations working in the field of agriculture too had opposed the bill in the amended form as brought in by Modi government.
The Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha and is yet to be tabled before the upper house. It is currently before the Parliamentary Standing Committee which is deliberating on the opinions they have received on the bill from political leaders as well as the other non-political stakeholders.
With the monsoon session slated to begin next week, another round of impasse between the opposition and the government over the land bill cannot be ruled out. Though, the Prime Minister has once again reiterated that “ahead of the upcoming Parliament session, it was appropriate that the suggestions of states be listened to, once again”.
(With inputs from the PTI)