INDIAN CABINET CLEARS LBA
The Indian cabinet has cleared the draft of the bill to implement the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh.
The original draft that included the enclaves of the northeastern state of Assam have been retained, negating speculations that those enclaves may be dropped under pressure from BJP’s Assam unit, reports bdnews24.com.
A top BJP leader in Assam, Prodyut Bora, has already resigned, protesting over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bangladesh policy.
Top BJP leaders said that a meeting at party president Amit Shah’s house late on Monday finalised the draft and decided to place it in original form.
BJP MPs from Assam were present at the meeting.
They were told that the party’s national leadership has decided to go ahead with the original draft of their agreement that will contain the Assam enclaves.
This change of BJP line follows furious criticism by Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who ripped apart the Modi government in a letter for not consulting the state government for any possible changes in the LBA draft.
Modi also received indications from the Congress that they would not support the bill if the original draft is not placed.
In that case, the BJP would not be able to get it through the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) where it does not have enough strength.
Government sources say after the cabinet’s clearance the bill is likely to be placed in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday for passage.
If the bill sails through the Rajya Sabha with Congress and Trinamul support, it will then be cleared by the Lower House, Lok Sabha.
Modi has been in a hurry to clear this bill in the current parliament session that ends on May 8.
After that, he leaves on a high profile visit to China, Mongolia and South Korea from May 14 to 19.
Modi is keen to visit Bangladesh in June, latest July, accodring to senior BJP leaders.
Indian diplomats have told him he must not come to Dhaka ’empty-handed’. Hence, the rush to clear the bill.
At one stage, it appeared Modi would give in to pressure from the BJP’s Assam unit, which had stoutly opposed the LBA, saying it was ‘against Assam’s interest’.
The BJP national leadership had discussed possibilities of keeping the Assam enclaves out of the purview of the proposed bill.
But then came the letter from the Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who insisted that the bill should be passed in original and Assam should not be kept out of it.
He raised two key questions – why is Modi not consulting the state government for possible changes and that Assam would actually gain rather than lose territory through the deal.
Gogoi rubbished the BJP stance as ‘cheap and misleading’.
In the meeting at Amit Shah’s Delhi residence, senior leaders like Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Home Minister Rajnath Singh explained the ‘urgent necessity’ to clear the bill in the interest of ‘India’s prestige’ as the issue of exchanging enclaves has been hanging fire since the 1974 Indira-Mujib pact.
They also pointed out the need to maintain good relations with a friendly government in Bangladesh, which would stand severely embarrassed, if the bill was not passed in original.
Rajnath Singh also said the bill needs to be cleared on humanitarian grounds as the enclave residents had lived like stateless entities for decades.
Assam BJP chief Siddhartha Bhattacharjee and all party MPs were present in the meeting.
Under the land boundary pact, India and Bangladesh want to exchange 161 enclaves, which are under each other’s adverse possession.
The agreement has to be ratified by Parliament through a constitution amendment bill.
The bill was placed in India’s Upper House in 2013 and subsequently referred to a select committee, headed by Shashi Tharoor of Congress, which “unanimously” recommended implementation of the LBA deal.
MAY 05, 2015