About to be marking its first year in government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces his sternest test in the form of passage of Land Acquisition Bill in Parliament. Will the death of Gajendra Singh force the PM's hand?
Farmer dying in front of live TV cameras right in the midst of a political rally, a chief minister who recently won with the highest victory margin continuing with his demonstration from the same spot, a full blown political battle between the BJP and AAP. The scene has all the ingredients of a climax of a Bollywood potboiler. But alas this was no peepli live. This was reality captured on live TV. When you have such high drama unfolding in front of your eyes, its bound to affect our political class. It seems the fate of the ordinance tabled in Lok Sabha on land bill has also been sealed because of this incident
Many senior leaders this author spoke to, made it clear. A human life lost in front of the media. Whatever be the reality, at this stage, to take up land acquisition bill will be committing political harakiri. At least two senior cabinet ministers have already informed the Prime Minister of their views on this subject. Mr Modi, who so far hasn’t displayed one single defensive bone in his system, has been on the back foot post the death of Gajendra Singh. Irrespective of the fact that his family members have been saying he wasn’t really a farmer or a poor suicidal soul at that, the PM was candid enough to conclude that perhaps mistakes have been made by successive governments including his when it comes to handling farmers issues. Here are reasons as to why the government is unlikely to proceed with the land bill this session of parliament
1. The political backlash--The one single act of death of Gajendra has totally united the opposition against the government. For Rahul Gandhi it has been like some kind of a drug which has got him his mojo back.
2. Many ministers are wary of an encore of Delhi in Bihar. BJP may have been given a pasting in Delhi by team Kejriwal, a united Janta Parivar presents a formidable opposition. To be going into elections in the state with jibes of being a " suit boot ki sarkaar " isn’t really the best strategy
3. The RSS factor--senior sangh functionaries this author spoke to state bluntly that team Modi has mishandled the entire debate on Land Acquisition. It’s unlikely whether Modi-Amit Shah duo would want to aggravate things at this stage
4. The government is completing its first year. Team Modi doesn't want the government to be identified only with the legislation related to land acquisition. There are many more initiatives, which have been taken by the PM, which they would like to inform the people about
5. The image factor—BJP won big because rural and urban areas voted for the party in equal numbers. Modi’s advisors are wary of again being bracketed in the same India Shining mould of 2004
Moral of the story—The right to fair compensation and transparency, in land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement, so near yet so far for the government.