Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday asked states ruled by her party to pass legislations to override the Centre’s farm laws. The direction came as protests continued in several states of the country against the laws that were formally approved on Sunday.

In a tweet, Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal said this will enable the states to negate the “unacceptable” anti-farmers’ provisions in the “draconian” agricultural laws. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had, earlier in the day, called the laws a “death sentence” for farmers.

“Hon’ble Congress President has asked 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 override a Central law which then comes for President Assent,” Venugopal tweeted. “This would enable the states to negate the unacceptable anti-farmers’ provisions in the three draconian Agricultural laws including the abolition of MSP and disruption of APMCs in Congress ruled states and alleviate the farmers from the grave injustice done by the Central government.”

The state laws that Gandhi was referring to can be passed on a subject that is concurrent to both the state and the Centre. In such a case, if a state passes a law repugnant to a central law that receives the president’s assent, it can come into force.

Gandhi’s directive came even as protests raged throughout the country against the farm bills.

Karnataka protests

Thousands of farmers in Karnataka, a state ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, came out on the streets to protest against the laws, NDTV reported. K Chandrashekhar, chief of Farmer’s Federation of Karnataka, called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a liar. “They are lying to farmers,” he said. “Narendra Modi is a liar and to bring what he says into practice in this state, Yediyurappa is also repeating the lie. This is all against farmers.” The police have taken around 500 protestors into custody in the state.

The protests in Karnataka were most intense in Bengaluru. By noon, thousands of farmers had gathered outside Town Hall in the city. Other groups of farmers blocked roads across the city until they were asked to move by the police.

Apart from the farmers, hundreds of protestors who gathered at Mysuru Bank circle in Bengaluru were detained and taken to the City Armed Reserve headquarters and the KSRP Parade Ground in Madiwala, The Indian Express reported.

Farmers’ organisations in Karnataka observed a dawn-to-dusk shutdown to protest the laws. Karnataka Congress leader Siddaramaiah and Congress state chief DK Shivakumar met the farmers before the demonstrations began.

Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa appealed to the farmers to wait for six months to see the results of the new laws. “We have not closed the doors on APMC [Agricultural Produce Market Committees], you [the farmers] can sell it at APMC or wherever you can get a fair price,” he said. “I request the farmers to wait for another six months or a year. You will get to know how it will help you.”

Tractor burnt in Delhi

A tractor was set on fire at Delhi’s India Gate by a group of men protesting against the farm laws. Five demonstrators were arrested. Union minister Prakash Javadekar claimed Congress workers burnt the tractor.

The Delhi Police detained Congress leader Anil Kumar and other workers during a protest at Rajghat. We wanted to submit a memorandum to the lieutenant governor against the farm bills passed by Parliament but we were detained by the police,” Kumar said. “The Congress will not rest till the Modi government withdraws its anti-farmer bills.”

Kerala MP moves Supreme Court, Punjab to follow suit

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said the tractor burning showed the anger of the people. “It shows what people are feeling... their anger,” he added. “Farmers don’t know who is going to buy [their produce from them].”

Singh also said that the state will move the Supreme Court against the farm laws. “Agriculture is a state subject but farm bills have been passed without asking us,” he said. “It is totally unconstitutional.” Singh joined a sit-in demonstration in Khatkar Kalan, the ancestral village of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh.

Congress MP from Kerala TN Prathapan filed a plea in the Supreme Court against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020. His petition alleged that two of the three laws passed by the government were unconstitutional.

Protests in Tamil Nadu

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party held a day-long protest in several parts of Tamil Nadu. DMK President MK Stalin demanded that the Tamil Nadu government should approach the Supreme Court against the laws. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which rules Tamil Nadu, is an ally of the BJP. Stalin said that if the state government did not approach the court, the Opposition parties would do so.

The Shiromani Akali Dal had on Saturday night pulled out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance due to the passage of the farm laws. “We tried to persuade them to listen to the farmers,” SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal said. “But when they refused to budge, we had to come out and stand by the beleaguered farmers.”

Government defends laws

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said on Sunday that the laws do not hurt farmers. Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Narendra Tomar had held consultations with all stakeholders such as farmers and other MPs before introducing them in Parliament, Sitharaman said, adding that Opposition parties were now doing a disservice by protesting against them.

Sitharaman had announced these agricultural reforms on May 15 as part of the Atma Nirbhar fiscal and monetary package to revive the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. The bills were then promulgated as ordinances in June and rushed through Parliament in September.

Narendra Modi on Sunday said that farmers in India now have the power to sell their produce wherever they get the best price and to anyone they want. In his monthly radio programme “Mann Ki Baat”, the prime minister also spoke about removing the Agricultural Produce Market Committee or APMC in Maharashtra and said that it has helped the farmers of the state.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill were cleared by Parliament in September amid protests from the Opposition.

Critics say that these new agricultural policies would lead to farmers losing out on guaranteed purchase prices for their crops, to the benefit of large corporations. Most Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations across the country have strongly opposed the bills.