UPA turns 'left' with land reforms
By Cithara Paul | ENS - NEW DELHI
26th August 2012 08:40 AM
UPA marketers have decided to don Marxist robes to stay in power beyond the 2014 general elections.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and rural development minister Jairam Ramesh - all known for their support of American-inspired economic models - are exchanging the ideology for populism by turning ‘left’, with land reforms as the new election plank.
Helping them is former bureaucrat Aruna Roy, a member of the Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council.
The UPA is desperately seeking an NREGA-type winning formula ahead of the 2014 elections, with Jairam, Montek and Roy being charged by Manmohan Singh himself with the task of enacting land reforms across the country based on the Kerala-West Bengal model.
“If the NREGA helped the UPA come back in 2009 by winning the rural votes, something as dramatic as land reform is needed to save it this time,” said a source. The government feels this will help wash away its ‘crony capitalist tag’.
Jairam, playing the ‘activist’ minister’s role, has been a strong advocate of land reforms though he supports government role in land acquisition for industry.
Montek had been resisting the idea by stating that “policy to distribute land in small units has to be discouraged as it will increase subdivision and fragmentation of holdings which has an adverse impact on productivity.” To settle the tussle, the government had set up a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) last year.
On August 16, Manmohan Singh gave directions to Montek and Jairam to convene a meeting of land reform activists.
The Prime Minister had personally written to activists such as Manjunath and P V Rajagopal of Ekta Parishad, who is currently organising a peoples’ march from Kanyakumari to Delhi to press for land reform.
“The fact that the PM was personally monitoring the developments made everything work smoother. Otherwise the meeting would have got derailed,” said a Planning Commission official alluding to the earlier fights between Jairam and Montek.
According to the official, Aruna Roy is acting as the interface between the duo and NGOs.
“Madam can connect with both the government and the activists,” said the official who has previously worked with Aruna Roy.
The government hopes that the proposed land reforms will also finish off the ailing Team Anna.
“P V Rajagopal was an active part of Team Anna. By engaging him actively along with Aruna Roy, the government is aiming at a vertical split of the civil society movement,” said the source.
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