New Delhi: Even as opposition parties hardened their stand on the land acquisition and other crucial bills that the government wants to pass in the budget session, President Pranab Mukherjee urged all members of Parliament (MPs) in a joint sitting Monday to work in a spirit of cooperation and mutual accommodation.

The government wants six ordinances passed in the session, including those seeking changes to the land acquisition bill and an increase in the foreign direct investment (FDI) cap in insurance to 49% from 26%.

Congress, Janata Dal (United), Samajwadi Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have staunchly resisted changes to the land acquisition bill which they maintain would make it easier for industries to acquire land and put farmers at a disadvantage.

“Our Parliament is the sanctum sanctorum of democracy," Mukherjee said on the first day of the budget session. “The people of India, particularly the poorest of the poor in remotest areas, have reposed unflinching faith in this institution for fulfilment of their hopes and expectations."

“My government will constantly endeavour for smooth conduct of legislative business and enactment of progressive laws in Parliament which reflects the will and aspirations of the people. I urge all the members of Parliament to discharge their solemn responsibility in a spirit of cooperation and mutual accommodation. By channelizing patriotic energies of every citizen, we all collectively must work towards building a strong and modern India," the president said.

With most of the opposition parties united on the issue of the land acquisition bill and social activist Anna Hazare arriving in Delhi to protest any changes it, Mukherjee assured Parliament the government would make it a priority to safeguard the interests of farmers and families from whom land would be acquired.

“While taking utmost care to protect the interest of farmers, including their compensation entitlements, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act has been suitably refined to minimize certain procedural difficulties in acquisition of land inevitably required for critical public projects of infrastructure," the President said.

The President, whose traditional speech at the start of the session outlines the government’s legislative agenda, said land was also needed for creation of basic amenities like rural housing, schools and hospitals, particularly in remote areas.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is trying to build a consensus with all the political parties and had approached Congress president Sonia Gandhi for her support for the smooth functioning of Parliament and get the bills passed.

The ruling alliance is worried because it has only 57 MPs in the 245-member Rajya Sabha, which means the bills can be stalled by the opposition in Rajya Sabha.

In his speech, Mukherjee said the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014 was promulgated to raise the foreign equity cap from 26-49% while safeguarding Indian ownership and control. “This will enhance capital availability and ensure better access to insurance services, especially in rural areas and for economically weaker sections," the President said.

Before the start of the session, the government had sent its emissaries to lobby with the Biju Janata Dal (BJU) that has seven members in the Rajya Sabha, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) with 11 MPs and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which has four MPs.

The government hopes to get the support of the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on some of the bills. The party has 10 MPs in the Upper House. In a related move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the wedding ceremony of the grandnephew of Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of the Samajwadi Party, which has 15 MPs in the Rajya Sabha.

Political analysts say Modi realizes that the opposition parties may not agree to all the initiatives of the government, and has therefore stepped in himself in a last-ditch bid to build consensus over the controversial bills, even attending an all-party meeting on Sunday.

“It is the government which is talking about cooperation through the President. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has himself initiated the process of consensus building," said N. Bhaskara Rao, founder-chairman of the Centre for Media Studies, a Delhi-based political think tank.

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