New Delhi, Sept. 8: If anyone was wondering why Manmohan Singh so unequivocally endorsed Rahul Gandhi as the next Prime Minister yesterday, a clue has come within a day.
The Congress vice-president, it appears, occasionally seeks inspiration from the presidential days of George W. Bush who was once told by Singh that “the people of India deeply love you”.
Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh today claimed Rahul had approvingly cited Bush’s example to give a new name to the Congress’s showpiece land acquisition act that was recently passed by Parliament.
When America enacted a new anti-terror law in 2001 shortly after the September 11 attacks, Bush had christened it the “USA Patriot Act” to convey its essential purpose of preventing terrorism. “USA Patriot” is an acronym for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism”.
Similarly, on Rahul’s suggestion, the original title of “Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill” was changed to the “Right To Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill”, Ramesh said.
Introduced under the old name in 2011, the bill was passed under the new title this monsoon session.
“Rahul Gandhi is responsible for changing the title of the bill,” Ramesh preened.
“Gandhi said, ‘Look at Bush who gave the title USA Patriot Act to convey the purpose so clearly’. He said the essential thing is the right to fair compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement, which needs to be highlighted. That is how the new title came.”
Ramesh’s statement is consistent with a tendency within the Congress to give the credit for every potentially popular development to one or other member of the Nehru-Gandhi family, if not name every scheme or new building after them.
The Congress indeed plans to tom-tom the land acquisition act as a key achievement in upcoming election campaigns, and Singh’s remarks on Rahul yesterday may have given Ramesh additional motivation to tie the Nehru-Gandhi scion to the “vote-catcher” legislation.
Yet many may harbour doubts on the wisdom of the minister’s statement.
For one thing, neither Bush nor America is particularly popular in many parts of the country — especially the key state of Uttar Pradesh which will be crucial to the outcome of next year’s general election and whose Muslim voters the Congress is eyeing.
Even if Rahul had cited Bush’s example in ministerial circles to press the name change, he would not want to be associated with the former US President in voters’ minds.
Second, the USA Patriot Act has drawn wide criticism within and outside America over provisions that allow extensive snooping on private citizens, “sneak and peek” searches and indefinite detention of aliens on mere suspicion.
Ramesh, however, went out of his way to draw a parallel between the land act and the US law.
If the Patriot Act was aimed at checking terrorism in America, he said, the land law will check the Maoist movement in India because its consent provisions will reduce the scope for discontent among land-losers.
“If the law is implemented properly, it will defeat Naxalism. There has been displacement of people due to acquisition of land for companies. More displacement has happened for public sector companies. Naxalism has grown in these areas,” he said.
The land law will come into force after it is notified in the official gazette within the next three months.