ACabinet meet of Chhattisgarh Government presided over by Chief Minister Raman Singh on Thursday withdrew Chhattisgarh Land Revenue Code (Amendment) bill 2017 amid rising protests by tribal groups and leaders.
The State Assembly had passed the bill last month and it was waiting formal written approval from the Governor but the BJP government made a U-turn on the bill on Thursday in the cabinet meeting.
“Cabinet has decided to withdraw the bill to respect the sentiments and demands of the tribal community,’’ Revenue Minister Premprakash Pandey told reporters at the press conference which was called to share details about the cabinet meeting.
The Government had said in State Assembly last month while introducing the bill that it was necessary to bring amendment in the section 165 of the Land Revenue Code, 1959. The amendment was basically designed to authorise government to buy tribal land only with consent of land owners in notified areas for government projects. The bill was intended to push development activities in impoverished tribal pockets. The bill which is generally classified as tribal land bill, created a huge row within and outside the BJP and tribal leaders hit the streets seeking its immediate withdrawal.
Chhattisgarh’s main opposition Congress projected the bill as ‘anti-tribal’ and announced to align with various tribal groups to ‘expose the anti-tribal mindset’ of the BJP which is in power in the state for 14 years.
Tribals form roughly 30 percent of State’s 2.55 crore population and the BJP staged disappointing performance in 2013 assembly polls in tribal stronghold regions- Bastar and Surguja. The BJP is desperate to improve its performance in upcoming assembly polls scheduled later this year to register fourth victory on the trot and the party strategists say the bill was needed to junk to stop Congress stoking anti-BJP feelings in tribal-dominated seats.
Sources said that the BJP’s tribal MLAs have heaved a sigh of relief after the bill was abandoned as they feared backlash of tribal voters in their respective constituencies.
Reports say that a few senior tribal leaders of the BJP in Chhattisgarh had expressed their open reservations against the bill at party forum and even advised Chief Minister Raman Singh for a ‘rethinking’ because the issue can be potentially exploited by the Congress in assembly polls.
Sarva Adivasi Samaj, an umbrella organisation of tribal communities in Chhattisgarh, had also announced to step up protests against the BJP government across the state if it refused to step back on the bill.
Congress has welcomed cabinet decision to withdraw the bill and the Leader of the Opposition TS Singhdeo commented, “sense has finally prevailed on Raman Government’ but he appeared to be taking credit for exerting pressure on State Government.