Congress, BJP clash in Karnataka Assembly over CM announcement of ₹10,000 crore for Muslims

The BJP alleged that the government, struggling to provide drought relief to farmers, chose to allocate a substantial fund for minorities without formally informing the Assembly.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Dec 07, 2023 | 12:06 AMUpdatedDec 07, 2023 | 12:10 AM

Karnataka BJP Muslims Hindutva Development CM Siddaramaiah BJP R Ashoka

The Karnataka Legislative Assembly witnessed a tumultuous session on the third day of the winter session on Wednesday, 6 December.

The BJP in the Opposition accused Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of breaching protocol by announcing the allocation of a significant sum for minorities during the ongoing Assembly session.

The uproar ensued after the chief minister disclosed at a Muslim community event in Hubballi a plan to allocate ₹10,000 crore for minorities.

The announcement led to the BJP raising objections. It insisted on an immediate withdrawal of the statement and an apology to the House.

Amidst the heated exchange, members of the ruling Congress defended Siddaramaiah, asserting that the intention was to incrementally increase the budget for the Minority Welfare Department and spend the mentioned amount through legitimate channels.

The controversy not only heightened political tensions between the two parties but also disrupted the business hours of the Karnataka Assembly, as members grappled with the alleged compromise of the House’s sanctity.

In the afternoon hours, BJP MLAs jumped into the well and staged a protest against Congress MLC Channaraj Hattiholi over his alleged attack on BJP leader Pruthvi Singh, who is said to be a close associate of Gokak MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi.

Despite the chief minister giving assurances that Minister for Home Dr G Parameshwar would reply on the matter after he returned to the Assembly, BJP leaders failed to withdraw their protest. Thus, Khader adjourned the session.

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Siddaramaiah’s statement

The BJP on Wednesday came down heavily on Siddaramaiah for his apparently unilateral announcement of funds for minority development.

The party alleged that the government, struggling to provide drought relief to farmers, chose to allocate a substantial fund for minorities without formally informing the Assembly.

Demanding an immediate withdrawal of the statement and a public apology to the House, the Opposition intensified its critique of the chief minister.

Defending Siddaramaiah, Congress members clarified that he expressed an intention to incrementally hike the budget for the Minority Welfare Department every year.

They emphasised that the ultimate goal was to channel ₹10,000 crore through the department, dismissing the BJP’s objections as opposition to funding for minorities.

The controversy originated from Siddaramaiah’s address at the Aulad-e-Ghous-e-Azam convention in Hubballi on Monday.

During the event, he stated, “This year we have allocated Rs 4,000 crore to the minorities department in the annual budget, and we will strive to increase it annually. Ultimately, we aim to spend ₹10,000 crore through the minorities department.”

BJP MLA Sunil Kumar raised the issue in the Assembly, claiming a breach of convention where government programmes were not announced outside when the Assembly was in session.

He accused the Chief Minister of compromising the sanctity of the House and demanded a formal apology.

The ensuing chaos led to heated arguments between the ruling and opposition benches, despite Speaker UT Khader attempting to quell the dispute.

Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister HK Patil intervened, asserting that there was no breach of privilege or convention on the part of the chief minister.

However, the Opposition, citing news reports, persisted in its claims, leading to further chaos in the Assembly.

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Speaker in crosshairs

Meanwhile, senior Congress MLAs Basavaraj Rayareddy and CS Nadagouda, invoking the rulebook, contested the validity of the BJP’s concerns, asserting that the raised issue did not fall under the “subject matter of the House”.

In an intervention, LoP R Ashoka expressed scepticism, stating, “We, too, have worked as ministers, but never announced any government programme outside while the House was in session. Hence, I too had doubts on whether the chief minister, who has the experience of announcing 14 budgets, made such a statement. But I saw it on a news channel — the chief minister stating that he would give ₹10,000 crore [to minorities] in this budget.”

He continued, emphasising the perceived contradiction: “If the chief minister announces outside when the session is on, why need a session? Your announcing outside makes it political.”

The ensuing exchange fuelled arguments between the ruling and Opposition benches.

Ashoka, addressing Congress members attempting to disrupt his intervention, asserted, “I’m speaking as the Leader of the Opposition. If you disrupt [me] like this, we, too, have the strength. When your leader, the chief minister, speaks, we too have the strength. We are 85 people strong.”

Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao’s attempt to defend the chief minister’s statement was met with objections from BJP members, who insisted on a clarification directly from Siddaramaiah.

This sparked a heated argument, culminating in the BJP walking out of the House, vociferously chanting slogans against the government.

Irked by the walkout by the BJP, Minister of Law, Parliamentary Affairs, and Legislation HK Patil levied accusations against the saffron party, alleging an attempt to transform the Assembly into a “factory of lies”.

Patil strongly objected to Ashoka’s assertion of having the power to disrupt the Chief Minister when he spoke, calling for the LoP to retract his statement and issue an apology.

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BJP protests attack on party leader

Meanwhile, condemning the attack on a BJP leader in Belagavi, the Opposition led by R Ashok jumped into the well to protest against Congress MLC Channaraj Hattiholi in the afternoon hours on Wednesday.

The MLC, brother of Minister for Women and Child Welfare Laxmi Hebbalkar, and his personal staff have been accused of stabbing BJP leader Pruthiv Singh, who is said to be a close associate of former minister Ramesh Jarkiholi.

Based on the complaint, Belagavi’s APMC Police Station registered a case of atrocities and attempted murder against the Congress MLC and his staff.

While the opposition leaders protested, CM Siddaramaiah assured that a reply would be given on this soon after Home Minister Dr G Parameshwara turned up for the session.

Not convinced by the statement, the BJP leaders continued to stage protests in the well. Thus, Assembly Speaker Khader adjourned the session.