New Delhi, Aug. 13: The BJP has come around to supporting the introduction of a bill to ratify a land boundary pact with Bangladesh, with sources saying the party didn’t want to play spoilsport on an issue vital to cross-border ties.
The Constitutional (119th Amendment) Bill, 2013, may be introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Monday.
India and Bangladesh had signed a protocol to the boundary agreement in September 2011, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited Dhaka. But Parliament has to clear the agreement by a two-thirds majority in both Houses as it involves exchange of territories. A 6.1km undefined border stretch will be demarcated if the bill is passed.
The BJP had been opposing the bill’s introduction mainly because of opposition from its units in Assam and Bengal, two states where stretches along the border will be redrawn if the legislation comes into force.
Last month, Lok Sabha leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj had said her party wouldn’t let the bill be introduced. But the BJP’s approach has since softened. The sources said party veteran L.K. Advani today held a meeting with Sushma and Arun Jaitley, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, asking them to allow the bill’s introduction.
Introduction in the upper House will ensure that the bill will not lapse and can be taken up later even if it is not passed in this session or during the tenure of this Lok Sabha.
The bill couldn’t be introduced in the Rajya Sabha yesterday because of disruptions. It prompted external affairs minister Salman Khurshid to hold a lengthy discussion with Sushma in Parliament.
Bangladesh wants India to ratify the bill as the Sheikh Hasina government, which faces elections next year, wants demonstrative action from Delhi. Bangladesh high commissioner Tariq Karim had recently called on Narendra Modi, apparently to nudge the BJP into supporting the ratification of the boundary pact.
Earlier, an attempt to introduce the bill in the budget session had failed as the Asom Gana Parishad and the BJP’s Assam unit had registered a strong protest. The Bengal unit was also against the bill, sources said.
But in a newspaper article, Varun Gandhi, the party’s general secretary for Bengal and Assam, said India had squandered an opportunity to improve relations with Bangladesh.