New Delhi, March 20: A day before the Centre seeks to introduce the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh in Parliament, the AGP used the pretext to reopen parleys with old ally BJP.
External affairs minister Salman Khursheed will seek to introduce the Constitution (One Hundred and Nineteenth Amendment) Bill, 2013 in the Upper House tomorrow.
The bill seeks to amend the Constitution “to give effect to the acquiring of territories by India and transfer of certain territories to Bangladesh in pursuance of the agreement and its protocol entered into between the governments of India and Bangladesh.”
Opposed to the agreement, AGP president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, along with party MPs, approached BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj in Parliament today. “Jaitley agreed that the bill should not be passed without consensus,” AGP Rajya Sabha MP Birendra Prasad Baishya said.
BJP Rajya Sabha MP Prakash Javadekar said it had been decided in a meeting with the Rajya Sabha chairman that an all-party meeting would be held before the bill is introduced. The meeting has not been held although Khursheed has, since late last year, held several rounds of talks with political parties, including the AGP and the Trinamul Congress, to convince them of the need to honour the Land Boundary Agreement. If the Opposition allows introduction of the bill in the Rajya Sabha, the bill can be debated after the two-week Parliament recess, starting Friday. The AGP, however, insists it will oppose the bill.
Back home, it suits the regional party to oppose the bill here while rebuilding friendship with the BJP. As the Congress in Assam seems to be warming up to the Badruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF to garner minority votes in the next election, the AGP has few options but to get close to the BJP to gain some of what is lost.
The regional party fared poorly in the Assembly and recently held panchayat elections in Assam. In such a scenario, emotive issues can help regional parties.
If the bill is passed, 268.39 acres of adversely possessed land in Assam will be transferred to Bangladesh.
India will actually be a net gainer in APLs as it will transfer 2,267.682 acres to and receive 2,777.038 acres from Bangladesh along the international border in Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal and Tripura.
The AGP leaders also got in touch with JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav to press upon the NDA allies to oppose the bill. On Tuesday evening, the AGP appealed to the Left parties to oppose the LBA. Last week, a copy of the bill was circulated to MPs in a bid to build a consensus.
It will be important for the government to get the numbers as any constitutional amendment requires two-third majority in both Houses of Parliament. The bill is doubly important to New Delhi. Not only is it vital to India-Bangladesh relations, it is also considered important for the ruling Awami League government to pitch for a victory in the general elections in that country later this year.
When President Pranab Mukherjee visited Dhaka and Norail on March 3, he assured Dhaka that the LBA would be ratified by India. Bangladesh has already ratified the LBA, which was signed in Dhaka on September 6, 2011 during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister had said in Rajya Sabha earlier this month that he hoped the bill would be passed with the support of all the parties.
The continuing disruption in both Houses of Parliament, however, can cast a shadow over smooth passage or even introduction, of the important bill.