Omar Leads Walk Out as Land Bill ‘Sabotaged’

Riyaz ul Khaliq

SRINAGAR

A KL file Image of J&K Legislative Assembly.
A KL file Image of J&K Legislative Assembly.

Entire Opposition including National Conference and Congress and other Independent Lawmakers walked out of the Lower House against “sabotaging” the Land bill.

Led by Leader of Opposition, Omar Abdullah, the NC and Congress targeted ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for “selling interests of J&K state”.

The Legislative Assembly witnessed quite an interesting situation when entire Opposition was in favour of the bill but government after listening to one BJP member detailing the “consequences of the bill” sent the bill to select committee.

Speaking on the issue, NC working president and former CM, Omar Abdullah pressed that the bill be passed.

“This bill was brought in to the house by inexperienced cabinet members of Ms Mehbooba Mufti government,” he said maintain that “PDP and BJP didn’t know the implications of such a bill”.

“Take one step and if you need me, I will be by your side; my team will be with you,” Omar Abdullah during discussion on Governor's speech on May 27, 2016. (KL Images: Bilal Bahadur)
Omar Abdullah

Responding to Sajad Lone’s “lesson”, Omar asserted that Legislative Assembly is for debates and discussions and “not to sabotage any good piece of legislation”.

“Sajad Lone will take some time to learn democracy and parliamentary rules,” he told the house, “he is just a year old in the house but it is good he is giving us lessons on democracy.”

“But I have told you earlier that inexperienced people are in the cabinet; your cabinet passed the draft of the Land Bill and brought it here,” he told the Treasury Benches inviting sharp reaction from Minister A R Veeri.

“This is unacceptable,” Veeri retorted, “the comments by Omar Abdullah are insulting and need to be expunged from the house records.”

Veeri said that he was one of the senior members of the house and “it doesn’t deem good of Omar attacking such members.”

BJP members speaking against the Land bill while Opposition sloganeering in favour of it on Thursday, the last day of Legislative Assembly.
BJP member, Rajiv Jasrotia, speaking against the Land bill while Opposition sloganeering in favour of it on Thursday, the last day of Legislative Assembly.

Later, Omar suo motto took his remarks back “if it had hurt any member”.

The Land Bill is aimed at plugging loopholes in the J&K Transfer of Property Act so as to prevent the transfer of land to non-state subjects in Jammu province.

Continuing his attack on the PDP led government, Omar said, “Facts are bitter, accept them. “App nay jald baazi mein bill laya hai aura ab fuss gaye ho,” he told the PDP.

He revealed how this Land Bill created uneasiness in the BJP camp after its draft was passed by Cabinet.

“Cell phones started ringing; BJP members started asking their ministers whether they knew what was in the bill which they didn’t know. The BJP members then identified a para in the bill and thus started a fixed match,” Omar alleged.

“Then the coalition partners planned as how two MLAs would demand that this bill be sent to select committee and this what this government is mulling,” he foretold in the house.

Addressing Social Welfare Minister from BJP quota in the J&K Coalition Government, Omar said, “Democracy means majority of the MLAs are in favour of the bill and it should be passed easily.”

“Debate it, we have no issues; pass the bill and make it a law; but no select committee,” he told the government and sat down.

Earlier, speaking on the issue, NC Khanyar Lawmaker, A M Sagar appreciated government for bringing a “good piece of legislation”. “It is a good move that such an official bill has been brought in the house and we all support the bill so it should be passes,” he told the house.

But this forced PDP Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, A R Veeri, who told the house how such “official bills have been sent to select in the past as well”.

However, Communist Lawmaker, M Y Tarigami, had a point. He said, “if my memory supports me, the official bills were sent to select committee in past only when Opposition members pressed for it.”

Earlier, Social welfare Minister, Sajad Lone, asked the Lawmakers, “not to belittle the democracy.”

“Don’t belittle this house,” he said addressing Opposition Benches.

“Democracy is agreeing to disagree,” he said, “we all have same destinies but with different aspirations.”

Defending BJP members’ opposition to Land Bill, he said, “we can’t force our view upon anyone else.” This, he said, “is dissent.”

“This (House) is the space to accommodate different aspirations and grievances,” he added.

Giving push to BJP demand that bill be sent to select committee, PDP’s Baramulla Lawmaker, Javaid Baig reminded the house of “great sacrifices rendered by National Conference in safeguarding interests of J&K”.

“I am an ordinary MLA but Omar Abdullah is not,” he said, “Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah gave infinite sacrifices to keep J&K together. So, it doesn’t behove Omar to press for such a demand which he himself said has political and regional consequences.”

However, Opposition including National Conference and Congress found support from inside ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well. “This house cannot be taken hostage,” former Minister and MLA Amira Kadal, Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari told the Speaker, “Majority of the house is in favour of the bill and it should be passed.”

“I don’t understand what this government is up to,” he yelled.

Before Speaker directed the Bill to Select Committee, Revenue Minister Syed Basharat Bukhari said, “given the debate this house witnessed on the Land Bill, it requires more wisdom and debates to make a law out of it. So, it is better we send it do Select Committee for further deliberations.”

Amid anti-government slogans, the NC and Congress Legislators and Indepdents Comrade Tarigami and Engineer Rasheed, the Opposition members alleged that the Land Bill was sabotaged to “favour BJP”.

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