The Telegraph
Friday , May 8 , 2015

Nod to land boundary bill and Sushma

New Delhi, May 7: The Lok Sabha today passed the land boundary bill in a rare show of back-to-back unanimity that also saw external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj walk away with the honours at the end of the day.

Opposition parties lauded her for her "statesman-like speech", reciprocating the BJP leader's gesture yesterday in the Rajya Sabha where she had thanked former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for preparing the ground for the enclave-swap deal with Bangladesh.

All the 331 members present in the Lok Sabha voted for the Constitution Amendment Bill, aimed at ratifying a 1974 agreement between then Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to settle a decades-old boundary dispute between the neighbours.

Yesterday, all the 181 members present in the upper House had supported the bill, based on a protocol signed by Singh when he visited Bangladesh in September 2011.

The deal involves exchange of enclaves, tracts that belong to one country but entirely surrounded by the other.

In her speech, Sushma urged the Lok Sabha to pass the bill unanimously just like the Rajya Sabha had done, saying it would send out a positive message to the world.

"This agreement will lead us to seek transit and trade with Bangladesh that will benefit our northeastern states.... Once again, our relations with Bangladesh will reach the same pinnacle (as) it was in 1971," the minister said.

CPM member Mohammad Salim said other departments of the Narendra Modi government should learn from Sushma. "The external affairs ministry has shown the way how unanimity can be built."

The remark comes in the backdrop of Opposition allegations that the government is trying to "bulldoze" bills without scrutiny by parliamentary standing committees.

"I congratulate Sushma Swaraj for this historic legislation and for making a statesman-like speech," said Trinamul MP Sugata Bose.

Congress member Gaurav Gogoi said it was the first time that the "suit boot ki sarkar" - a coinage by the party to poke fun at the pin-striped suit Modi wore during an interaction with Barack Obama earlier this year - had shown "soojh boojh" (thoughtfulness).

BJP Darjeeling MP S.S. Ahluwalia, who spoke in Bengali, recalled the contributions of Indira Gandhi and Singh and said their dreams would be realised today.

After the bill was passed, the Prime Minister walked up to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the party's leader in the House, Mallikarjun Kharge, and thanked them for the support.

For a while, though, the bill's passage came perilously close to missing the stamp of unanimity - ironically because of Sushma.

The minister mistakenly pressed the "Noes" button when the bill was put to vote. She later corrected the mistake by casting her vote through a paper slip.

It made an Opposition member remark in jest whether the minister was taking a "U-turn".

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