BJP MLA backs anti-farm laws resolution, later retracts

BJP MLA in Kerala backs resolution against centre's farm laws in Assembly, later retracts

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had moved the resolution at a special session on Thursday

A farmer reads a newspaper during a protest against the new farm laws, at Singhu Border in New Delhi. Credit: PTI Photo

Causing major embarrassment to the BJP, the lone BJP MLA in Kerala, O Rajagopal on Thursday backed a resolution in Kerala Assembly against the Centre's farm laws on Thursday.

However, with the issue snowballing into a major controversy, Rajagopal issued a statement retracting from his initial stand.

The resolution urging the Centre to withdraw the laws and extending support to the ongoing farmers' stir was moved by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. It was passed unanimously by the house with the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front also backing it.

Rajagopal spoke in favour of the farm laws in the house. He said that the new laws were aimed at helping farmers by eliminating middlemen and allowing farmers to sell their produce anywhere, but kept off from disagreeing with the resolution during the voice vote, and hence it was passed unanimously. He later told reporters that he was agreeing with the resolution considering the general consensus in the house, but expressed his disagreement with certain interpretations of the issues.

BJP state president K Surendran said that he would react on the issue after talking to Rajagopal. Other senior BJP leaders also maintained a similar stand.

Rajagopal later issued a statement maintaining that he had strongly flayed the resolution. He also said that during the voice voting, Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan sought response of those favouring the resolution and those opposing it as a single query instead of asking separately. This was against the normal practice.

Rajagopal maintained a similar stand during a resolution in the Assembly against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act last year.

Since Rajagopal, who is a veteran leader of the saffron party in Kerala, spoke in favour of the farm laws in the house, the general anticipation was that he would oppose the resolution. But after the voice voting, the Speaker said that no one opposed the resolution.

Moving the resolution, the Chief Minister said that if the farmers' stir continues, it would badly affect food grain supply to states like Kerala. The Centre passed the laws without holding discussions and was keeping off from responsibility of ensuring minimum support price for commodities. The new laws would help corporates only and would have serious impact on the farming sector. It would lead to black marketing. Instead of corporatising, the Centre should initiate steps like decentralised procurement, said Vijayan.

He also said that Kerala government already initiated several steps like minimum support price to 16 vegetables and highest support price for paddy to help the farmers. The options of a law as an alternative to Centre's farm laws was also being considered, said Vijayan.

Even while backing the resolution, opposition UDF said that the government did not strongly criticise Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who initially declined a nod to state government's recommendation to convene Assembly special session. Deputy leader of opposition K C Joseph said that the government should have convened the special session much earlier.

Joseph's suggestion to specifically flay Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the resolution was rejected by the ruling left-front with the Chief Minister, citing that the Centre was criticised in it.

Rajagopal said in the house that the opposition parties were blindly opposing any initiatives of Narendra Modi. The allegations that Modi was not willing for talks with the agitating farmers was untrue. The farmers were insisting on withdrawing the farm laws before discussions, said Rajagopal.