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Congress to take on BJP government over Land Ordinance

After putting the government in a spot in Parliament, the Congress is set to take its campaign to the roads. After the winter session, the party has started formulating plans on how to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government, this time on the land ordinance issue.

The party has singled out the recently promulgated ordinance as something that will have a resonance with farmers and rural India, as it is “weighed heavily against the interests of farmers”. Pradesh Congress committees and district committees across the country have been directed to set up steering panels and draw up a detailed action plan on ‘dharnas’ and protests to be launched. The party is timing the countrywide protests such that these conclude by February 15, just before the Budget session. In the next phase, the Congress intends to take up protests against the ordinance in Parliament, attacking the government on both planks — “sansad se leke sadak tak (from Parliament to the roads)”.

The Congress has termed the land ordinance a “dilution” of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)’s land acquisition Bill. The party had planned to devise a road map on taking on the government early this week, at a meeting chaired by organisational incharge Janardan Dwivedi. At the meeting, former rural development minister Jairam Ramesh briefed the All India Congress Committee general secretaries on the intricacies of the ordinance. It was decided the party would highlight the compensation clause and the consent clause, which the party said were “anti-farmer”, as the two major drawbacks.

The Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee has already made public its plans of kicking off the protests from Bhatta Parsaul; Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had made common cause with farmers here for their land rights, leading to the UPA’s land acquisition legislation.

The Congress has also convened a meeting of the party’s highest decision making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), on Tuesday to give shape to the agitation. A three-member panel, comprising party leaders Jairam Ramesh, Anand Sharma and K V Thomas, has been set up to fine-tune the strategy for the programme.

Speaking about the party’s plans, spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “Modi’s land ordinance is anti-farmer and it has demolished the heart, soul and foundation of the UPA’s Act.”

Janardan Dwivedi has indicated the party will not be limiting itself to the land ordinance, adding it will rake up the government’s other anti-farmer policies, too. These include reduction in allocations pertaining to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, failure to revise the minimum support prices of crops and high fertiliser and urea prices.

Meanwhile, Assam chief minister and Congress leader Tarun Gogoi has already announced the state will not implement the land ordinance. “I am not going to implement the land acquisition ordinance in Assam. It is done to benefit the industry alone,” he said, adding the new law would take away the right to proper compensation. “We will bring a new Bill in the state on land acquisition for industry and other purposes.”

With the Congress readying to take on the government, the Budget session is slated to be a stormy one.

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