Ramesh in Calcutta on Tuesday. Picture by Sanjoy Ghosh
Calcutta, Oct. 1: Union minister Jairam Ramesh today said some Trinamul MPs had “privately” backed the new land bill but opposed it in public because of the “party’s whip”.
The land acquisition bill of 1894 was replaced by The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which was passed in the monsoon session of Parliament despite opposition from Trinamul MPs.
“Some Trinamul MPs privately backed the new land bill when I discussed it with them. But they later opposed it in both the Houses because of the party’s whip,” Ramesh told a news conference at the state Congress headquarters in Bidhan Bhavan today.
The Union minister named Trinamul MP Debabrata Bandopadhyay, saying he backed the bill when Ramesh met him at his home in Calcutta.
Trinamul leaders said Ramesh’s remark was aimed at “misleading” the people before the Lok Sabha polls next year and create a rift within Trinamul at a time the party was focusing on discipline and putting a check on factionalism.
“The Union minister’s claim that some of our MPs backed the new land bill of the Centre are expected to create a rift within the party at a time Mamatadi has cracked the whip on a party MP and an MLA to stem the dissent,” said a Trinamul vice-president.
Trinamul suspended MP Kunal Ghosh for alleged anti-party comments and MLA Sikha Mitra.
Ramesh was on a day’s visit to Calcutta as part of his countrywide tour to drum up support for the “historic and revolutionary” new land bill. He left for Ranchi this afternoon.
The minister said he came to Bengal twice and met chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Trinamul MPs to seek their support for the bill.
“I spent nearly six hours at Trinamul Rajya Sabha member Debabrata Bandopadhayay’s house discussing the bill. I also talked at length about the bill with Mamata at Writers’ and accommodated some of her suggestions into the bill to ensure her party MPs’ support. But they opposed the new bill in both the Houses despite their assurances to back it in private,” he said.
Bandopadhyay denied having backed the bill when Ramesh called on him at his home.
“Ramesh has been a good friend for many years. But his claim that some Trinamul MPs and I had backed the new bill in private is not correct. We were against the new bill right from the beginning and this is why we had opposed it in Parliament,” he said.
Continuing his tirade against Trinamul, the Union minister asserted that the Congress was against any sort of alliance with a party that won a Parliamentary seat in an industrial belt close to Calcutta in a bypoll because of withdrawal of the BJP nominee, hinting at “a secret understanding between Trinamul and BJP”.
When pressed to elaborate, Ramesh said the Trinamul candidate had won in Howrah bypoll only because the BJP had withdrawn its nominee. “This was a clear example of a secret understanding between Trinamul and BJP and the Congress won’t have any alliance with the parties that have secret links with communal parties,” he said, when asked if the Congress would further collaborate with Trinamul.
State industry minister Partha Chatterjee said the Congress allegation about a “Trinamul-BJP nexus” was the outcome of “its long-felt frustration over its fast erosion of organisation consolidation”.