Sonia Gandhi today asked Congress-ruled states to consider bringing laws to overrule the centre's farm laws, which have provoked massive farmer protests in parts of the country. Congress-ruled Punjab is the epicenter of protests against the three controversial laws and its Chief Minister Amarinder Singh held a sit-in today, joining the cause of the farmers.
"Hon'ble Congress President has advised the Congress-ruled states to explore the possibilities to pass laws in their states under Article 254(2) of the constitution which allows the state legislatures to pass a law to negate the anti-agriculture central laws encroaching upon state's jurisdiction under the constitution," the Congress said in a statement.
"This would enable the states to bypass the unacceptable anti-farmers' provisions in the three draconian agricultural laws including the abolition of MSP (Minimum Support Price) and disruption of APMCs in Congress-ruled states. This would also alleviate the farmers from the grave injustice done by the Modi Government and BJP," said the party.
The constitutional rule that Sonia Gandhi refers to allows a state legislature to enforce laws "repugnant to the parliament law", if they get presidential approval. In 2015, then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had advised states to use the same route to bypass a Land Acquisition law passed by the previous Congress-led government.
The farm bills, which were passed in parliament amid much controversy over the vote in Rajya Sabha, are now laws with President Ram Nath Kovind signing off on them last night. The ruling BJP has lost key ally Akali Dal from Punjab, where farmers make for a significant chunk of the voters.
Farmers have blocked roads and railway tracks to protest against what the government says is a massive reform measure. This morning, a tractor was burnt at a protest near India Gate in Delhi, one of the most protected spots in the country.
The government says the new laws give farmers the option to sell their produce to private buyers while it would still buy staples such as rice and wheat at the Minimum Support Price. But this has failed to reassure farmers who fear that they will lose their bargaining power and large retailers will get control over pricing.
Amarinder Singh had said on Sunday that his government would explore the possibility of amending state legislation to protect farmers from any fallout of the three controversial laws.
"What they (the central government) have done is anti-national," said the Chief Minister, protesting at the ancestral village of iconic freedom fighter Bhagat Singh in Punjab.