Kerala passes resolution against Indian farm laws
−− Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan introduced the resolution urging the Centre to withdraw the new laws and heed the demands of farmers who have massed on Delhi’s borders to protest against the legislation. “The Centre wants to corporatize the farm sector. It must come forward to allay farmers’ fears. The entire country is with them. It should recognise public sentiments and withdraw the new laws,” Vijayan said
Jan. 4, 2021
A unanimous resolution passed by the Kerala assembly on Thursday against three contentious laws passed by the Centre to open up agricultural markets received support from an unexpected quarter -- the lone Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of the House.
O Rajagopal, 91, who was minister of state for railways in the Atal Bihari Vajapyee government, opposed the resolution initially, but when it was put to voice vote, he did not walk out and supported it, much to the surprise of both the treasury and opposition benches.
After the session, when reporters asked him about his support for the resolution, he said he backed it in accordance with the “democratic spirit of the house.”
“I raised my disagreement in clear terms. But I supported the substance of the resolution in accordance with the democratic spirit. Nothing big about it, in democracy, such compromises are common,” he said, expressing the hope that the farmers’ agitation against the farm laws will be settled soon amicably.
When asked specifically whether he wanted the bills to be withdrawn, he said that was why he had supported the resolution. After his stand triggered a controversy in the BJP, he said it was wrong to say he did not oppose the resolution and blamed the speaker for not seeking a a division of votes in the house.
The veteran’s ambiguous stand has put the BJP, which had described the resolution as “a mere waste of time and money,” in an awkward position.
“There is no difference of opinion in the party. He is a senior leader and we didn’t think he will support the resolution. I will talk to him about this,” said the party’s state president K Surendran. In Delhi, minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan, who belongs to Kerala, said he was not aware what the senior leader said in the house, adding that the state unit will explain it.
BJP leaders close to Rajagopal said he was unhappy with a growing factional feud in the state unit of the party. After the elevation of Surendran, some senior leaders in the state unit were sidelined and the party’s attempt to broker peace between two prominent factions, one led by Muraleedharan and the other by P K Krishnadas, hasn’t yielded results.
“His position literally shocked the party. The central leadership is also unhappy with it,” said one party leader, who did not want to be identified.
It wasn’t the first time that Rajagopal had courted controversy. When the speaker was elected election in 2016, he supported the ruling Left Democratic Front’s nominee, P Sreeramakrishnan. He said he had backed Sreeramakrishnan because his name contains the names of both Ram and Krishna.
Many Left leaders praised Rajagopal. “He took the right decision unmindful of its consequences,” said state finance minister Thomas Issac.
Earlier in the day, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan introduced the resolution urging the Centre to withdraw the new laws and heed the demands of farmers who have massed on Delhi’s borders to protest against the legislation. “The Centre wants to corporatize the farm sector. It must come forward to allay farmers’ fears. The entire country is with them. It should recognise public sentiments and withdraw the new laws,” Vijayan said
All 140 members of the assembly supported his resolution.
The laws essentially change the way India’s farmers do business by creating free markets as opposed to a network of decades-old, government marketplaces, allowing traders to stockpile essential commodities for future sales and laying down a national framework for contract farming. Farmers say the reforms will make them vulnerable to exploitation by big corporations, erode their bargaining power and weaken the government’s procurement system.
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