Gandhi’s advice to Congress CMs came on Monday, when the main opposition party held a nation-wide protest against the bills which received presidential assent on Sunday.
AICC general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal communicated Gandhi’s ‘advice’ to the CMs. “Congress president has asked Congressruled states to explore possibilities to pass laws in their states under Article 254(2) of the Constitution which allows state legislatures to pass a law to override a central law which then comes for President’s assent,” Venugopal tweeted. “This would enable states to negate the unacceptable anti-farmers’ provisions in the three draconian agricultural laws, including abolition of MSP and disruption of APMCs in Congress-ruled states and alleviate farmers from grave injustice done by the central government.”
With this, Congress has opened political, legal and legislative fronts against the contentious laws. Talking to ET, Venugopal pointed to a ‘Jaitley precedent’ in the context. “After the UPA government passed the Land Acquisition Act in 2013, leader of the opposition Arun Jaitley asked many opposition-ruled state governments to pass laws to override the central law. Subsequently, some state governments passed such laws in 2015, after NDA formed the government when Jaitley ji was finance minister,” he said.
Tweeting a photocopy of the particular Article of the Constitution, former rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said “as FM, Arun Jaitley got states to resort to Article 254(2) of the Constitution to override provisions of the 2013 land acquisition law, alaw he had fully supported as leader of opposition in the RS. States should now follow the same advice to undo the damage caused by the #FarmsBills that have become Acts”.
Incidentally, the only successful agitation the opposition parties hitherto have conducted against the Modi regime remains the amendment to the land acquisition law attempted in the early part of the last government’s tenure.
Congress-run governments in Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry are expected to enthusiastically back the party chief’s call and pass bills negating the central law. It remains to be seen how Congress coalition partners in Maharashtra and Jharkhand and other non-NDA state governments such as Trinamool-ruled West Bengal, LDF government of Kerala, TRS-ruled Telangana and BJD regime in Odisha would react to the Congress’ idea. All the parties had opposed the bills when they were taken up in Parliament last week.
With the farmers agitating against the laws across the states, most intensely in Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka and Maharashtra, Congress and like-minded parties are working to make the opposition to the Acts a major political plank.