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Kerala House rejects farm laws, backs farmers’ stir

Resolution passed unanimously; lone BJP MLA later claims he opposed it

Statesman News Service | Thiruvananthapuram |

A special session of the Kerala Assembly on Thursday passed a resolution seeking the Union government to withdraw the three contentious farm laws passed by the parliament. The resolution was passed unanimously with the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) supporting it.

In a rare gesture, not only the legislators of the ruling CPI(M)-headed LDF and Congress- led UDF, but the lone BJP member in the 140-member state Assembly, O Rajagopal, also supported the resolution against the Centre, saying “it is the democratic spirit.” However, Rajagopal opposed some of the references in the resolution, which was presented in a nearly two-hour-long special session convened in compliance with Covid protocols.

Though the lone BJP MLA O Rajagopal spoke against the resolution in the Assembly, the resolution was passed unanimously, triggering reports that the MLA has voted in support of the resolution

Moving the resolution at the Assembly, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the country is now witnessing one of the most iconic protests ever by farmers in its history.The Centre had presented and passed the three agriculture laws in Parliament at a time when the agriculture sector was facing a severe crisis, he said.

“The country’s capital is now witnessing a legendary agitation of the farmers. There is outstanding will behind this agitation and is something that wasn’t visible in the recent past. It’s a pro corporate and anti-farmer farm laws that the Union government passed in the Parliament.

It’s in the chilling winter of Delhi that the farmers rally behind the grand protest. Farming in our country is not solely a producing sector but part of our culture. Hence the reforms at the farm sector should be conceived and implemented with extra vigil,” chief minister Vijayan said.

Terming the farm laws pro-corporate and anti-farmer, chief minister Vijayan said the solution to middlemen cheating farmers is decentralization of the storage system, not corporatization.

The laws would weaken the bargaining power of the farmers before the combined strength of the corporates, the resolution said “The laws lack provisions for ensuring the protection of farmers. In a scenario where the government withdraws from procurement, it will jeopardize the distribution of food and food security and lead to an increase in hoarding and black marketeering,” the resolution said.

The session was held after Governor Arif Mohammed Khan had in an unprecedented action earlier turned down the plea of the LDF government to convene a special session on December 23 to discuss the contentious laws saying chief minister Vijayan had not addressed the question raised by him on the nature of emergency warranting the very brief session. Opposing the resolution in the Assembly, BJP MLA, O Rajagopal said” “By eliminating the middlemen and commission agents, the laws will empower the farmers to sell their products anywhere. Those opposing these laws are standing against the interests of farmers. The provisions in these laws have been cited by the Congress in its manifesto and by the CPM in its resolutions. The farm laws are aimed at doubling the earnings of the farmers. Some people here think that they will get satisfaction only by criticising- Modi. Let that be.”

Though Rajagopal spoke against the resolution in the Assembly, he did not vote against the bill. “There is a general consensus in the House. So, I did not object to the resolution. This is the democratic spirit,” he told media persons outside the House.

However, hours after stating that he backed the resolution passed by the Assembly , the BJP MLA made a volte face and said that he had vehemently opposed the resolution.

“I have vehemently opposed the resolution passed in the Assembly. I had strongly expressed my stand while speaking at the session. I don’t oppose the law passed by the Union government; neither have I opposed the Union government. The law is of utmost help for farmers,” Rajagopal said in a statement

Rajagopal called the reports, which suggested that he was against the Central government, false. He also accused Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan of violating protocol as he did not ask who supported and opposed the resolution separately.

While speaking during the session, Rajagopal had said the new laws will protect farmers interests and there will be no middlemen.

Those opposing the laws are standing against farmers, he said, adding the new laws would double the income of farmers.

Slamming the LDF government’s resolution, BJP state president K Surendran, told reporters in Thodupuzha that it was absurd.

On Rajagopal’s stand, Surendran said he was not aware of the stance taken by the senior leader and would speak to him. There are no two opinions about the Centre’s laws in the BJP, he said.

State law minister A K Balan and agricultural minister V S Sunil Kumar, had met Khan on Friday last after the state government decided afresh to convene a one day session on December 31 to discuss and pass a resolution against the farm laws.

Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, who is in quarantine after recovering from Covid, was not present in the House. In his reply, senior Congress leader K C Joseph attacked the governor for not convening the house on December 23. Joseph said the controversial laws were passed by the Centre 100 days ago and some state governments, including Punjab, had already passed a resolution against it and brought in a legislation.

~With inputs from PTI~