NEW DELHI: In the first direct blow to his ambitious economic reform agenda, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has had to row back on a business-friendly land bill amid fierce Parliamentary opposition.
The government has not given up on making it easier to acquire land needed to kick-start hundreds of billions of dollars in stalled projects, but after failing to win support in Parliament may ask states to pass their own laws.
“We realize that currently we don’t have the numbers to pass it,” a leader in Modi’s ruling party told Reuters. “By reducing the heat on this, we will be able to get other things passed.”
After sweeping to power last year on expectations, he would accelerate an economic transformation that began in the 1990s, Modi is struggling to build support in Parliament, where his party is in the minority in the upper house.
Having staked so much capital on an unpopular issue, Modi risks losing the initiative to the opposition and fuelling perceptions that his reform plans are not necessarily going to improve the lot of India’s 1.27 billion people.
“This is a huge setback for Modi,” said Sanjay Kumar, an analyst at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. “This is an indication that if bills are controversial, this government is going to find it very difficult to pass them.”
In the next sitting of parliament due to start on Tuesday, the government wants to ease the passage of the biggest overhaul of taxes since independence in 1947, and may also introduce the first major labour reforms in decades.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will have to fend off opposition attacks in the rowdy houses over allegations of corruption, and does not want to rile opponents further over the land law. Land reform is critical for Modi’s drive to build new roads, homes and factories and, if stalled would blight his vision of 100 new ‘smart’ cities across India linked by industrial corridors and high-speed rail routes criss-crossing the country.
In the last seven months, Modi has had to issue temporary executive orders that allow the government to forcibly purchase farmland for industrial development, but has failed to secure the votes in parliament to make the changes permanent.
Senior BJP leader Shrikant Sharma told Reuters the government would continue to work with opposition parties to pass the law, but if that failed, it would work with individual states to implement their own versions of the legislation.
“The opposition can’t stop our agenda, it can only delay it,” he said, in comments echoed by a senior cabinet minister.
“I certainly hope that the reality dawns on them. The whole country is against this bill,” said Jyotiraditya Scindia, a leader in the Congress party that has spearheaded opposition to the reform.
Shyamsunder Rao•Bangalore•13 hours ago
There is no loss of face for Modi,It is slap on the faces of those who oppose development,employement ,iIrrigation,Housing,Defense projects,fast trains etc.Those states who pass the land bills in tei states in accordence with the latest bill are the ones who achieve great development,and who do not and eat political ideologywill be suferrers..
salihaamiali salihaamiali• Shyamsunder Rao•12 hours ago
Indeed it is a slap for those who oppose on their own growth as well as that of Indians by not supporting the land bill. Roads are the life lines of any nation and not developing it along with other infrastructure is foolisness of Annaji and pappu alias Rahul Gandhi.
King of India•Lexington•13 hours ago
it is democracy, people write their own fortunes. the states which will have business friendly policies will succeed in eradicating poverty sooner. others will keep blaming their fate.
Atul Kumar•Delhi•14 hours ago
Good move by Modi Government. States looking for development will arrange land and those wanting to go West Bengal or Delhi way, will not.
Shabash India•Unknown•14 hours ago
Retreat is better part of valour