Expressing solidarity with the agitating farmers in Delhi, the Kerala assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution demanding the immediate withdrawal of the three contentious central laws, saying they were 'anti-farmer' and 'pro-corporate' and would push the farming community into a deep crisis.
In a rare gesture, not only the legislators of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist)-headed Left Democratic Front and Congress-led United Democratic Front, but the lone Bharatiya Janata Party 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-19 protocols.
Moving the resolution, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan alleged that the central laws have been amended to help the corporates.
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 three contentious agri laws were passed even without sending them to the standing committee of Parliament. If this agitation continues, it will severely affect Kerala, which is a consumer state," he said.
Stating that the reforms in the field of agriculture should be implemented as carefully envisioned, he said with the implementation of the laws, the bargaining power of farmers would be weakened, giving an advantage to the corporate sector.
The laws did not have any provision to ensure legal protection for farmers, Vijayan said adding that they do not have the capacity to wage a legal battle with the corporates for this.
It was clear that the major cause of the agitation was the possible price drop for agriculture products due to these laws, he added.
As agriculture is the state subject and it is an issue which directly affects the states, the Union Government should have convened the meetings of the inter-state committees and held detailed consultations, he said.
"So, the Kerala assembly requests the Centre to accept the justifiable demands raised by farmers, who are the backbone of the country, and take immediate steps to withdraw the three controversial farm laws," the chief minister added.
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.
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-19, was not present in the House.
In his reply, senior congress leader K C Joseph (Congress) attacked the Governor for not convening the house on December 23.
Joseph said though the Governor's act was a challenge to democracy as a recommendation of a majority government had not been accepted, 'what surprised us was the cold response of the government to the Governor's action'.
Two ministers were then sent with Christmas cake to the Raj Bhavan and they pleaded before the Governor to convene the session, he charged.
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.
The state government should have brought in a legislation and passed a resolution, he said adding the three laws were unconstitutional and against the federal structure as states were not consulted.
Raising objections, the BJP legislator, Rajagopal said those who oppose the central laws were the ones who oppose farmers.
"The Congress had mentioned this law in their election manifesto before. The new law is meant to double the income of farmers," he said during the discussion. However, he did not object to it when the Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan put the resolution for voice vote.
"The resolution was passed unanimously. I have told my views... with regard to some matters (in the resolution) there was a difference of opinion, which I had pointed to in the House. I fully support the resolution," Rajagopal told mediapersons after the session.
When pointed again that the resolution was for scrapping the three central farm laws, Rajagopal said he supported it (resolution).
"I supported the resolution and the central government should withdraw the three farm laws," the senior BJP leader said, adding he agreed with the general consensus in the House.
Though the UDF demanded an amendment to the resolution strongly criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was allegedly not ready to hold talks with the agitating farmers, the House rejected it.
Replying to the opposition charges, the chief minister said there was enough reference in the resolution against the union government, which was against the Prime Minister also.
Vijayan also said the state was exploring possibilities to bring legislation to overcome the central farm laws.