Bleak prospects for RS nod to bill on boundary review

The Centre’s constitutional amendment Bill for redrawing the boundary with Bangladesh is set to face a stormy passage in the Rajya Sabha with the numbers not in favour of the ruling UPA.

Union External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid is scheduled to introduce the 119th constitutional amendment in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday — over a year and seven months after the protocol was signed.

It was first signed during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh. It will also be 39 years after Indira Gandhi and Mujib-ur-Rehman first signed the 1974 pact for exchange of enclaves and surrender of adverse possession. As per the pact, India will get 51 Bangladeshi enclaves with an area of over 7,000 acres, while Bangladesh will get 111 Indian enclaves over 17,000 acres. It would mean an additional 14,000 people to the total population in India, while Bangladesh will add more than 37,000 citizens to their tally.

For a smooth passage in the Lok Sabha, the constitutional amendment would require approval of two-thirds majority in the House. At this time, the number seems untenable with the BJP taking a stance that it would not support the Bill. In the 245 members-chamber the Opposition have the upper hand.

It is learnt that the Congress had made several overtures towards West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for her support to the land boundary agreement, but there is currently no mood in the party to oblige the ruling alliance.

In fact, senior party leaders were not taking calls from the UPA minister who had been given the job to woo the TMC on this matter.

On their part, the Left parties want an “amicable settlement”, but have asked the government to call for a meeting of all party members of Parliament from Assam to acknowledge that the big opposition is from the north-eastern state.

BJP leaders met at the parliamentary leader L K Advani’s house on Thursday  and decided that they would not support the Bill. Besides the central leadership, the meeting significantly was attended by Members of Parliament from the border states, as well as the chiefs of the state units in Assam and West Bengal.

While there was no official announcement, the BJP leaders have firmed up their opposition to the Bill in response of strong demand from their Assam unit, mainly basing it on their argument of “unequal” exchange of territory. However, sources noted that there were also some voices among the senior BJP leadership in support of the Bill, pointing out the benefits in having a settled border and raising the stock of the friendly Awami League government in Dhaka.

There were also indications that the BJP was ready to give an ear to the UPA’s argument in support of the Bill, but only if there were assurances on certain issues, such as strict action to stop illegal immigration, deportation of illegal immigrants and sealing of border.

Source: New Indian Express

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