New Delhi, March 17:
The opposition is determined to defeat the government’s controversial land acquisition bill, Congress president Sonia Gandhi declared on Tuesday after leading leaders of 14 political parties in a protest march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
In the first major display of opposition unity after the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Gandhi told the media that they had urged President Pranab Mukherjee not to let the government go ahead with the bill, saying it would badly hurt the interests of farmers.
Gandhi said that “democratic, secular and forward looking forces are determined to defeat the (Narendra) Modi government’s designs” to promote corporate interests at the cost of farmers by taking away their land.
The protest that Gandhi led drew members of 14 political parties, including her own Congress, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal-United, Janata Dal-Secular, the DMK, the Communists, Trinamool Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh also joined the protest.
JD-U leader Sharad Yadav said Tuesday’s protest had brought together all the opposition forces that had got scattered since the Lok Sabha election catapulted the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party to power.
“This is a land of farmers. It is the farmers who have made this country self-sufficient in food. To snatch their land is a sin,” he said.
“This is the beginning of a major battle that will be waged in every nook and corner of the country,” he said.
The MPs converged at the Gandhi statue in the parliament complex from where they launched the march, raising slogans like “Kisan Virodhi, Narendra Modi (or anti-farmer Narendra Modi)”.
“This is a historic march. All parties are in it together and we hope the Modi government is watching this march,” Trinamool leader Derek O’Brien told reporters.
The opposition parties submitted to the president a memorandum against the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) bill, 2015.
Referring to the bill that introduces amendments to the existing act, passed by the UPA government in 2013, Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia said: “The clauses which we, the Congress, had inserted for the farmers’ benefit have been taken out.”
The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha earlier this month amid stiff protest. However, the Modi government is yet to present it in the Rajya Sabha, where it lacks a majority.