Kerala demands repeal of farm laws, opposition says Modi's 'ingratitude' left out

Kerala Assembly demands repeal of farm laws, passes resolution
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan introducing the resolution at the Assembly.

The Kerala Assembly on Thursday unanimously, though with differences in some political details, passed a resolution demanding the immediate repeal of the three central farm laws that had triggered an unprecedented farmers' protest across the country. The resolution said that if the agitation continued, the worst hit would be Kerala as it was almost wholly dependent on other states for its food needs.

The lone BJP MLA O Rajagopal, the only legislator in the 140-member Assembly opposed to the resolution, took a surprisingly ambiguous stand. He said the bills were intended to protect farmers and termed those opposed to it as "anti-farmer". Yet, in his brief intervention, Rajagopal hoped that the discussions in the Kerala Assembly would help in resolving the crisis. Later, at a press conference Rajagopal even said, "we've supported the spirit of the resolution even though we have differences about certain points raised in the resolution."

The opposition UDF wanted the resolution to express anguish at both the Prime Minister, for not finding time to talk to the agitating farmers even after all these days, and the Kerala Governor, for initially refusing permission to convene a special Assembly session.

Congress MLA K C Joseph, who stood in for opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, sought to provoke the chief minister saying there was no need to fear anyone. The Congress had often charged Pinarayi Vijayan with going soft on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Muslim League MLA Ahmed Kabir said the resolution should have at least one line on the “ingratitude shown by the Prime Minister towards the farmers in the country.”

Joseph also said the LDF Government had a “mild response” when the Governor refused permission first time. “What was the need for the Government to send two ministers with Christmas cake to the Raj Bhavan,” Joseph said. He said the government had fallen at the Governor's feet. “We should show no reluctance in telling the Governor that he had acted in an anti-democratic and partisan manner,” Joseph said.

The Chief Minister said there was no need to mention the prime minister by name when the resolution specifically attacks the Central government. Even if he did not find it necessary to drag Governor Arif Mohammed Khan into the resolution, the chief minister used the occasion to demonstrate how his government made the Governor see Constitutional sense.

“The Governor can use his discretion only in certain instances. If a government with a clear majority recommends something, the Governor cannot use his discretionary powers. So when we gave the recommendation the first time, we were sure it would be accepted. There were no doubts,” the chief minister said.

So when the Governor refused permission, the CM said the government had many choices. Like legislators like P C George had demanded, the government could have called a meeting of legislators outside the Assembly hall. "But any meeting outside the Assembly hall is not the Legislature. The important thing is for the Legislature to pass such a crucial resolution," the chief minister said.

For this, he said the first thing was to convince the Governor that his stand on rejecting the Cabinet's recommendation was wrong. “We once again told the Governor of our stand but this time we included major Supreme Court verdicts on Governor-State relations in our clarification,” the CM said. This was how the Governor accepted the Cabinet's decision the second time.

LDF MLA K B Ganesh Kumar and independent MLA P C George lauded the chief minister for his non-confrontationist approach with the Governor. Ganesh Kumar said the chief minister upheld high cultural standards by not badmouthing the Governor as suggested by the UDF leaders.

Congress MLA K C Joseph further taunted the LDF Government saying it was a shame that it could not bring in a legislation to repeal the central acts. He said Congress governments in Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, besides passing resolutions, had also introduced laws that would render the central laws inoperable in these states.

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