New Delhi, Feb 24: The NDA government came in for strident criticism over the land acquisition bill which was introduced in the Lok Sabha Tuesday, with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal joining Gandhian activist Anna Hazare in slamming the legislation as "anti-farmer" and demanding its withdrawal.
The Rajya Sabha witnessed a ruckus as opposition members demanded a discussion on the bill, leading to suspension of business of the house.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill 2015 was introduced in the Lok Sabha amid an uproar by the opposition. Once passed, it will replace the land ordinance promulgated by the NDA government Dec 30, 2014.
In a bid to mollify the opposition, the BJP has set up an eight-member committee of party MPs, headed by former union minister Satyapal Malik, to seek to hold discussions with farmers and other organisations on the matter.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meanwhile asked his party MPs to aggressively defend the land acquisition bill saying that it is pro-farmer, sources said.
According to the sources, the prime minister said at the BJP parliamentary party meeting Tuesday morning that the bill will work in favour of farmers and asked MPs to defend it.
At the Jantar Mantar, Kejriwal joined anti-corruption activist Hazare in his agitation against the bill, saying he will not allow the central government to forcibly take land away from anyone in the national capital under the land acquisition law.
Addressing a crowd of protestors, Kejriwal said: "We will use all our force to ensure that land is not taken away forcibly from anyone in Delhi."
He noted that land is a subject that comes under the purview of the central government but his government would still make all the necessary efforts to protect the poor.
Hazare, who led an anti-corruption movement against the previous UPA government, has termed the bill as "undemocratic" and demanded its withdrawal.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, speaking in Patna, hit out against the bill and termed it against the interests of farmers.
"We are opposed to the bill and there is no question of supporting it," he said.
He said his party along with other like-minded parties would not allow the bill to be passed in parliament without a proper discussion, and accused the Narendra Modi-led government of working against the interests of farmers to benefit industrialists.
In the Rajya Sabha, the opposition alleged that the government was trying to bypass parliament on the bill, while the government denied it.
"We have given a notice. The whole country is agitated against the ordinance, there are protests going on in Delhi," said Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal.
Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien urged the members to discuss the matter when the measure comes to the house. "Ordinance has to be replaced by bill. When the bill comes, you can discuss."
Congress Deputy Leader Anand Sharma alleged the government was trying to bypass parliament through an ordinance.
"We can't accept that the government will govern through ordinances overriding the legislative scrutiny of parliament," he said.
Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, said it was unfair to say the government was bypassing parliament.
"No law can bypass the house. My friend should remember 636 ordinances have come and 80 percent of them came when Anand Sharma's party was in government," he said.
As Kurien appeared ready to let the members speak on the issue, Jaitley maintained that the discussion should be held only when the bill comes to the house but the chair said there was no harm in members expressing their views.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, Samajwadi Party's Ram Gopal Yadav, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien and Communist Party of India leader D. Raja attacked the government on the bill.
Meanwhile, Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed that the government is intending to call joint sittings of both houses to pass the bill but his party would oppose the bill "on the floor of the house".