Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan to Follow Punjab in Opposing Central Farm Laws

The development comes after the Congress government in Punjab on Tuesday passed new state-level laws to counter the effects of the three Central laws.

New Delhi: Congress governments in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan are looking at passing news Bills at the state-level to counter the “anti-farmer” Central laws which were passed by parliament amid protests from farmers and opposition parties.

Another Congress-ruled state, Punjab, had already passed Bills to counter the farm laws on Tuesday. The three Central laws have led to large-scale protests by farmers’ groups from across the country. The protests have been particularly intense in Haryana and Punjab.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel proposed on Tuesday that a special assembly session would be convened on October 27 and 28 to pass new laws, according to the Hindustan Times.

Baghel’s government has already requested governor Anusuiya Uikey to allow a special session of the state legislative assembly to be held. However, the governor has sent back the proposal of the state government, pointing out that just 58 days had passed since the conclusion of the assembly’s monsoon session. She has also sought reasons for holding another assembly session.

Also read: Punjab: Over 13,000 Village Panchayats to Veto Centre’s Farm Acts

While governors appointed by the BJP have had run-ins with opposition-ruled state governments, especially in Maharashtra and West Bengal, the Chhattisgarh government is confident that Uikey is not in a position to decline the state government’s decision to hold an assembly session.

Bhupesh Baghel

Bhupesh Baghel at an event in 2019. Photo: Twitter/bhupeshbaghel

Baghel has clarified that the governor cannot prevent a government that has a full majority from holding an assembly session.

Chhattisgarh legislative affairs and agriculture minister Ravindra Choubey told the Indian Express that the government wanted to hold a special session because the laws passed by the Central government, on agriculture, contract farming, labour and the Essential Commodities Act, “go against the people of Chhattisgarh”. “But the governor has sent back the file with a query, seeking details of the Bills. I have sent all the details. We hope the governor will give the approval,” he said.

Choubey added that the Supreme Court has made it clear that the governor cannot make any change in dates sought by an elected government which enjoys the majority for convening the assembly

Rajasthan to follow suit

On the other hand, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot has categorically stated that an assembly session would be held soon to oppose the “anti-farmer” laws passed by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

Taking to Twitter, Gehlot said the Congress stands “resolutely” with the farmers and will continue to oppose the farm laws. He said the Rajasthan government will follow the Punjab governments lead and pass Bills to counter the Central laws.

The Rajasthan chief minister has already chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the impact of the Central agriculture laws and the course of action that the state government has to take to prevent them from being enforced.

Also read: Nationwide Protests Against Bills a Marker of Success, Farm Leaders Say

“We are examining how to do it… We have sought the opinion of the Advocate General. We have also sought the views of the Agriculture (department)…agricultural marketing. We will take a decision taking into consideration all their views,” he told the Indian Express.

Can states override Central laws?

Under Article 254 (2) of the Constitution, a state government is empowered to make changes to Central legislation that is enlisted under the concurrent list of the Seventh Schedule.

Agriculture and associated enterprises such as education and research, livestock, fisheries and irrigation are in the state list. ‘Markets and fairs’ are also a state subject, along with trade and commerce within a state. However, the latter is subject to Entry 33 of the concurrent list.

While Bills passed by the state governments to change Central legislation require the assent of the President of India to enact them as laws, the Congress governments still want to put their best foot forward and try to raise a banner of revolt against the Central farm laws. Though the Bills passed by the Congress governments may not get President Ram Nath Kovind’s nod, the party wants to send a “strong political statement” by opposing the agriculture laws.

This comes in the wake of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s order to her party-ruled states last month to “negate” the provisions of the Central laws. In fact, the party high command had even circulated a draft Bill to the states.

Meanwhile, in Haryana, a BJP-ruled state, pressuring is mounting on the state government to follow suit. However, Haryana agriculture minister J.P. Dalal said that the Congress government in Punjab should stop ‘misleading’ innocent farmers. “Congress should stop playing politics over MSPs [minimum support prices],” he has said, according to Hindustan Times.