The Narendra Modi government has an open mind on the land acquisition Bill now pending in Parliament. Two ministers—parliamentary affairs and rural development—have indicated readiness to accept any well-meaning, practical suggestions to make the controversial Bill acceptable to the Opposition. The alternative is to re-promulgate the land acquisition ordinance before it expires on completion of six months. An ordinance can remain in force only for six months. In the past, some governments like in Bihar considered it easier to re-promulgate ordinances several times to keep them in force than to convert them into Acts. Such a practice is not in consonance with the best democratic traditions.
The ideal choice is to get the land acquisition Bill passed by Parliament so that it can replace the ordinance in force. The government faces a problem in this regard as some Opposition parties, most notably the Congress, are opposed to some provisions in the Bill. The ruling party does not enjoy majority support in the Upper House. But, it is not the first time that a government which enjoys majority support in the Lok Sabha cannot have its way in the Rajya Sabha. Governments led by the Congress and the Janata Party, for instance, faced this problem. However, that did not prevent them from enacting laws which they thought were essential to fulfil their promises to voters.
The Modi government, too, has shown that it is capable of winning the confidence of the Opposition to complete its legislative business. In the ongoing session, the ruling BJP was able to get insurance, mines and coal Bills passed by both Houses of Parliament. The government was able to convince the Opposition that the Bills were in the national interest. For one reason or another, the Congress considers that the land acquisition law it enacted was a landmark legislation. Other parties have become victims of the propaganda that the present Bill is anti-farmer. Once the government is able to remove the misapprehensions, the Bill will surely have an easy passage.