Protest against land bill bares rift between Lalu, Nitish

Protest against land bill bares rift between Lalu, Nitish

A fortnight after extending hospitality towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his daughter’s wedding, RJD president Lalu Prasad waged a political war against him over the proposed land acquisition bill.

Leading a protest rally against the Centre’s ‘draconian law’ from Patna’s JP Roundabout to Raj Bhawan on Sunday, Lalu told partymen: “Zameen ko lekar Mahabharat hua tha. Ab phir se Mahabharat hoga iss zameen ko lekar (Land dispute had led to the Mahabharat war. A new Mahabharat war will be fought over another land dispute).”

Lalu’s protest march comes a day after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar observed a day-long fast to oppose the amended land acquisition bill, which he termed a “black law”. “The new bill compromises with the three basic tenets of the 2013 Act—consent of 70 per cent farmers, social impact assessment, and provision to return the land to its owners if the project fails to take off,” said Nitish on Saturday.

However, on Sunday, he flew to North Bihar when Lalu Prasad, his new-found ally, hit the streets of Patna agitating on the issue.

The two regional satraps, who for months have been talking of merging their outfits, were apparently not keen to be seen protesting together. “It would have been better had the two leaders joined hands and protested together against the bill. Such separate agitations will not go down well at the ground level,” said a former president of the Bihar Congress, adding that Lalu’s refusal to let RJD men join the Nitish Cabinet showed their fight against the BJP had weakened.

“The Land Acquisition Bill passed by the Manmohan Singh government in 2013 was quite adept in tackling farmers’ issues. But it has been put in an old-age home—as they have done with L K Advani—and brought a new one which was anti-farmer. Modi should know that this is Bihar, where revolutions start. Mahatma Gandhi began his fight against the British from here. We, too, will wage a battle against Modi till he withdraws the draconian law,” said Lalu.

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