New Delhi, Aug. 19: Trinamul MPs today prevented in the Rajya Sabha the introduction of the bill to ratify the land boundary agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh, prompting a flummoxed Centre to dial Mamata Banerjee.
Asom Gana Parishad member (AGP) Birendra Prasad Baishya — whose party has so far opposed the bill along with the BJP as they see it as ceding land to the neighbour — also slammed the bill. But it was Trinamul chief whip Derek O’Brien who appeared to have stumped Salman Khurshid with his protest when the external affairs minister rose to table the legislation.
The BJP members, by contrast, stayed quiet as Baishya and the Trinamul members rushed to the well, with the AGP MP carrying posters opposing the bill.
Khurshid later spoke to Mamata Banerjee over the phone, sources said. The Bengal chief minister is learnt to have deputed three of her MPs — O’Brien, Mukul Roy and Lok Sabha MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay — to represent her at a meeting with Khurshid “sometime later” on the issue. “There will be a chat some time later,” said a source.
With the entry of Trinamul, indications are the bill may not be introduced this monsoon session. The government had expected a relatively smooth affair as it had discussed the bill with the BJP, the principal Opposition. “They (the Congress-led UPA) assumed Trinamul will not oppose,” O’Brien said later.
He claimed he had “informally” asked minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla this morning not to introduce the bill. Shukla apparently did not expect Trinamul to be so strident.
Before deputy chairperson P.J. Kurien adjourned the House over the protests, Khurshid tried in vain to convince Baishya and the Trinamul MPs to allow the bill to be tabled, saying it was crucial to ties with Bangladesh.
O’Brien accused the Centre of not consulting the affected states. He said not only should they be consulted but their “consent” should also be taken on the bill.
Ironically, Bengal is set to be a net gainer if the LBA is ratified. In adversely possessed lands along the border, 2,398.05 acres will be transferred to Bengal while only 1,957.59 acres from the state will be given to Bangladesh.
Since the pact was signed during Manmohan Singh’s 2011 Bangladesh trip, Dhaka has helped New Delhi crack down on insurgent groups. It recently held back the deportation of Ulfa leader Anup Chetia amid speculation that the move was related to India’s failure to get the pact ratified in Parliament.