Narendra Modi hints at changes in land bill, denounces Sayeed remarks

New Delhi: On a day he again took on the opposition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to meet farmers' concerns over issues of land and distanced himself from Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's comments on state elections that triggered a huge row.

PM Narendra Modi
PM Narendra Modi

Modi was at his aggressive best as he attacked the Congress, the Left and the opposition in the Rajya Sabha. A miffed opposition hit back by forcing a rare amendment to the motion of thanks on the president's address.

On the controversial land bill that has led to widespread criticism, the prime minister said: "If there is anything against farmers, I have said it since day one that we are ready to make changes."

He said land was needed for irrigation schemes, rural housing and roads, explaining the reason for his government's decision to push for a law that would make it easier to acquire land.

Modi vowed to bring back black money stashed abroad and found fault with the previous Congress-led government for not doing enough.

He said the previous government had allowed people to route their black money out of the foreign banks.

His government would leave no stone unturned to bring unaccounted cash back to India, he said.

At the end of it all, the opposition embarrassed the ruling coalition by voting for an amendment on the motion of thanks on the president's address for making no mention of high-level corruption and black money.

The amendment was moved by Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury and two party colleagues.

Its passage exposed the government's vulnerability in the upper house where it has to get some crucial legislations passed to replace ordinances including the contentious land bill.

Officials said it was apparently the only fourth such instance in the history of the upper house.

Much before it, Modi gave a spirited reply at the end of nearly 40 hours of debate, taking several digs at the Congress and the opposition.

He distanced his government from Sayeed's remarks crediting Pakistan and militants for the peaceful elections in the state late last year.

"We do not support it, neither can we support it. A statement is made somewhere and we give reply, we will not go in that direction," Modi said, without mentioning Sayeed whose government has the BJP as a partner.

He said the PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir will run on the basis of the common minimum programme (CMP).

Modi took a dig at 34 years of Left rule in West Bengal, saying industry and agriculture had suffered.

As the opposition tried to shout him down, he raised his voice and thundered: "Sunna padega, sunna padega." (You have to listen, you have to listen.)

Modi sought support for the government's legislative agenda saying the Rajya Sabha was a council of states and its members must reflect the mood of the people in their states.

Responding to Congress criticism that his government was merely pursuing UPA's schemes, Modi said even the UPA's much-touted rural employment guarantee scheme was an extension of an initiatives of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

Dismissing allegations that his government was pro-corporate, Modi said that initiatives such as Clean India, Jan Dhan Yojana, cleaning the Ganga, Skill India and soil health card were aimed at the common man.

"We want to go for mobile governance. The poorest of the poor should have facilities on mobile," he said.

Taking a dig at the Congress, Modi said: "Get connected to the ground and you will know what is happening."

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