Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan has once again turned down the State Cabinet’s request to convene an emergency session of the Assembly on 31 December to discuss the ongoing farmers’ agitation and the three controversial farm laws passed recently by the Union government and proved his loyalty to the BJP which rehabilitated him politically.
He had turned down a similar request on 21 December as he felt the Assembly lacked the jurisdiction to offer a solution to farmers’ problems. He also maintained the Assembly had no mandate to evaluate the constitutional validity of legislation passed by Parliament.
In a letter to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the Governor said that when he had given his assent to convene the budget session of the Assembly on 8 January, he did not see any reason to convene an emergency session earlier. The stand of the Governor has brought the ruling CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front and the Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front on the same page for the first time.
These parties believe Khan’s position runs against the grain of parliamentary norms and practices. The lone MLA to back the Governor was the sole BJP member. The Constitution does not authorise the Governor to dictate the topics an Assembly can discuss. It is constituted by elected representatives of the people whereas the Governor is selected by the ruling party at the Centre.
Chief Minister Vijayan fears the ongoing farmers’ agitation could adversely affect food security of Kerala, a predominantly consumer State. Leader of the Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala of the Congress, called the decision of the Governor “undemocratic.”
On being denied permission to convene the Assembly for a second time, the Chief Minister and his Cabinet colleagues gathered in front of the Assembly and expressed solidarity with agitating farmers in North India, the biggest uprising the country has seen in recent times. Vijayan said the farmers’ demands are the nation’s demands.
The Modi government, which divides and destroys popular protests, had failed in its attempts to divide the farmers’ movement, he said. Political parties barring the BJP want the State government to bring forward legislation to nullify the effects of the three controversial Central laws in the coming budget session beginning on 8 January.
According to T Asaf Ali, former director-general of prosecution, Kerala, the Governor’s decision to deny permission for a special session of the Assembly, as recommended by the Cabinet, is unconstitutional, but Vijayan does not want a confrontation.
He deputed Law Minister AK Balan and Agriculture Minister VS Sunil to Raj Bhavan with cakes and ale to explain the constitutional position to Governor Khan. Raj Bhavan sources pointed out that the Governor had not objected to summoning the Assembly, but only sought clarification on the exigency that prompted the calling of an emergency session. Meanwhile, time is running out.