Rahul’s meet with PM, President raises eyebrows
By Santwana Bhattacharya | ENS - NEW DELHI
19th October 2012 10:33 AM
An unusual bout of activity at Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s end in the past two days has led to speculations that the prince-in-waiting may finally be at the threshold of a new role either in the party or the government. However, sources in his party indicated that he is busy chasing “issues” and not “positions of power”.
Nonetheless, it is not usual for the Congress general secretary to meet the Prime Minister and President in quick succession. He met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday and had a 40-minute rendezvous with President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday. It seems Rahul had “serious” issues to discuss. Career counselling was not part of the agenda!
According to sources, Rahul flagged his concerns over the Land Acquisition and Resettlement Bill.
A new draft of the Bill was approved by the Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Tuesday. In the draft Bill, the GoM agreed to a proposal forwarded by Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh that consent of two-thirds, not 80 per cent, of land owners would suffice for acquisition of land for public-private partnership/private projects of national importance and for building major infrastructure facilities.
The GoM also agreed that the project work could commence in tandem with rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) of the affected families. But the R&R process has to be completed within six months of commencement of work, especially if it involves submergence of villages for dams/hydel power projects.
According to sources, Rahul raised objections to the “dilution in provisions” of the earlier draft of the Bill.
The Prime Minister is said to have told him that the matter would be looked into, but no promise was made. However, the fact that the draft Bill was taken up for discussion in the Union Cabinet meeting on Thursday shows that Rahul’s objections could have played a role in the issue.
After the GoM meet, Pawar had indicated that the draft Bill would be put before Cabinet so that it could be introduced in the Winter session of Parliament.
After having ‘derailed’ the Land Acquisition and Resettlement Bill for the time being, Rahul seems to have met Pranab to discuss Telangana issue.
Though sources in the Congress claimed that he had gone to congratulate the President on his son’s victory from Jangipur parliamentary constituency in Bengal in the recent bypoll, the secrecy surrounding the meeting told another story.
Just before Rahul went to Rashtrapati Bhavan, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde met the President. Before that Manmohan and Congress president Sonia Gandhi had also met Pranab.
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