BJD shuns protest march against Land Bill, draws Congress ire

Bhubaneswar/New Delhi: In the protest, which saw over 100 Opposition MPs led by Congress president Sonia Gandhi marching from Parliament to Rashtrapati Bhawan today raising their voice against the Land Acquisition Bill, BJD chose not to participate. This has further raised questions over BJD’s flip-flop stance on the Bill, which it earlier opposed but later didn’t even exercise its right to vote against the Bill by staging a walkout.

The State unit of Congress criticized BJD’s non-participation. Without mincing any words, party leader Pradip Majhi alleged that BJD’s protest is only a show-off and the party has struck a deal with the BJP in this regard.

However, BJD MP Rabindra Jena clarified, “One of our most important demands was to make the land-losers, the stakeholders in the activities for which land is being acquired and this has been agreed to by the Centre. However, we still are not in favour of the Consent Clause and will continue to oppose it.”

BJD’s role as Opposition and its avowed agenda of espousing Odisha’s cause in Parliament has been a subject of debate over the past few days in context of the Land Bill. The debate raged especially after BJD refrained from voting on the Bill passed in Lok Sabha last week.

Commenting on the developments, party MP Tathagat Satapathy had said that in order to protect the interests of Odisha, the party has to maintain different postures as the situation demands.

Satapathy had strongly criticised the Land Bill before voting and also questioned its developmental objective. “Development for whom? Whose interests the Bill is trying to serve?” he had asked during the discussion on the Bill in the House.

After such critical remarks, it was expected that the BJD will vote against the Land Bill. However, there was a clear change in its stance after the party staged a walkout ahead of voting on the Bill.

Meanwhile, MPs and leaders from around 10 political parties, including Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress, CPI and CPM, today participated in the Delhi march amid heavy security. The protesters shouted anti-government slogans resolving to continue their opposition till the Modi government makes changes in the Bill.

The Congress and other Opposition parties have been opposing the Land Acquisition Bill terming it as anti-farmer and pro-corporate. Though the Bill sailed through Lok Sabha last week, the BJP-led government now faces its real test in Rajya Sabha where it is in a minority.