| Prafulla Kumar Mahanta |
New Delhi, March 21: The Asom Gana Parishad’s (AGP) full-throated protests seemed to have worked as the Centre today deferred the introduction of the Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill, 2013, in the Rajya Sabha to ratify the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh.
External affairs minister Salman Khurshid was scheduled to introduce the bill today, according to the list of business announced yesterday. This morning, the revised list of business for Rajya Sabha did not reflect the item nor does tomorrow’s list of business have the bill for introduction.
The AGP was the most vocal of the opponents of the bill, which, if passed by two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament, would lead to transfer of territories to and from Bangladesh. It called on all the NDA allies, including top leaders of the BJP as well as Left parties, to press for an all-party meeting before any attempt to ratify the land boundary agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh signed on September 6, 2011.
Responding to the development, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, however, said he was in favour of the bill. Asked about the AGP’s stridency over LBA with Bangladesh, Gogoi said, “Mahanta is opposing but I am supporting”.
Earlier also, Gogoi has spoken of the need to ratify the LBA in view of long-term tranquillity on the Indo-Bangla border. Gogoi had argued last year that after the transfer Assam would be a net beneficiary as the lands in question are technically not in possession of Assam.
According to the agreement, 268.39 acres of adversely possessed land (APL) in Assam is to be transferred to Bangladesh. While Assam is set to “lose” some land, West Bengal and Meghalaya are net gainers in the transfer of APLs.
However, it is not just about the AGP. “We want to know first what the government wants,” said BJP Rajya Sabha MP Venkaiah Naidu, who called for an all-party meeting before bringing the legislation for a debate in the Upper House.
Since tomorrow is the last working day before Parliament goes into a two-week recess in the budget session, the bill appears to have been put on the back burner, pending wider consultations.