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Front partners block CPM way
- Land ceiling bill hits rough weather

Calcutta, Aug. 1: Cracks in the Left Front over a bill that seeks to do away with land ceiling came to the fore today with the allies seeking its withdrawal and the CPM describing it as critical to development.

Voicing the minor partners' opposition to the West Bengal Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2005, Forward Bloc's Ashok Ghosh said: 'Before its circulation among MLAs, the bill was not discussed in the cabinet of ministers, nor in the cabinet core committee' not even in the Left Front. This is unprecedented. The government is trying to introduce a bill keeping its partners in the dark about its contents.'

Ghosh also said that front chairman Biman Bose had informed him that the government would withdraw the bill.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas, however, said there was no question of withdrawal. 'We are neither withdrawing the bill nor delaying its introduction in the House. It will be placed in the current session of the Assembly. There are certain things not right in it, which we will correct through discussions with our partners,' he said.

Biswas refused to point out what needed to be corrected in the bill. He said: 'Discussions are on, but the government will table the bill this week.'

The bill sparked a row as it gave the government special powers to ignore the ceiling of both urban and rural land and distribute it to promoters.

Ghosh said the bill could lead to grabbing of agricultural land by industries and multinationals. 'We did not oppose the purchase of agricultural land during construction of the Rajarhat township and Vidyasagar University (in West Midnapore). They were set up with good intentions. But we feel the proposed bill does not protect the small farmers and their land may be in danger.'

Land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah had earlier raised objections about some of the clauses in the bill, but later gave his consent to it.

Ghosh said his party held an 'emergency meeting' of its secretariat yesterday and wrote to the front chairman its objections to the amendments. 'Bose had told me over phone that the government will withdraw the bill and that the decision will be taken after consulting the front constituents.'

Debabrata Bandopadhyay, the state RSP secretary, also said that he had written to Bose opposing the introduction of the bill in this session.

The other key CPM ally, the CPI, too, had raised objections regarding the bill on the ground that it was not discussed in the cabinet committee.

'The government is playing hide and seek with us,' Bloc chairman and agriculture minister Kamal Guha said.

Government chief whip in the Assembly Rabin Deb said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had discussed the bill with relief minister Hafiz Alam Sairani of the Bloc and told him that it will be raised with all other partners.

CPM insiders said the party might hold one-to-one talks with the allies instead of calling a front meeting. A senior CPM leader said: 'If a regular front meeting is convened, the partners might team up against the party.'

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