The winter session of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly at Belagavi’s Suvarna Vidhana Soudha has been cut short by a day. The BJP government led by Basavaraj Bommai chose to end the proceedings of the already short, 10-day session citing Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit.
A furious Opposition accused the government of putting Shah’s visit ahead of Karnataka’s interests as the session wound up on Thursday, 29 December.
The decision to cut the session short came at a time when Speaker Vishveshwara Hegde Kageri had raised questions about how serious the Bommai government was about the Belagavi session, given the poor attendance in the Assembly.
“Curtailing the session for bending the knee before Amit Shah, shows the indifference of the Karnataka BJP government towards the people. The scheduled time already was not sufficient to raise several issues of public importance in the House, and the government is curtailing the session, instead of extending,” Siddaramaiah, leader of Opposition in the Assembly, told reporters.
However, the Congress, too, had scheduled a convention, “Krishna Yojana Samavesha”, in Vijayapura on Friday. Siddaramaiah justified that by saying the event was at 4 pm, after the session’s conclusion.
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Symbolism of Belagavi
With ministers skipping the session and legislators missing from the House, the winter session at Belagavi has been worrisome.
This, at a time when the border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka was raging.
One of the primary purposes of setting up the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi and hosting sessions there was to assert Karnataka’s position that region was an integral part of the state and its second administrative capital.
It was also to assure the people of the border district that the region was politically, geographically and culturally important.
The abysmal attendance and productivity year after year at the Belagavi session, however, do not reflect the same.
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Missing ministers, no quorum
Since day one of the session, which began on 19 December, Opposition parties have alleged that Cabinet ministers were either failing to turn up or leaving the House before end of business hours.
Assembly Speaker Kageri lost his cool and openly expressed concern over the ministers’ absence. He pointed to the lack of quorum in the House on two different occasions as well.
As per the rules of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, at least 10 percent of the total strength of the House has to be present to have a quorum, and for its smooth functioning.
“If the responsible ministers either remain absent or leave the House before the end of business hours, how to run the Assembly?” Kageri asked BJP legislators who were present on 23 December.
He also reprimanded BJP chief whip and Bommanahalli MLA M Satish Reddy over ministers failing to turn up in the Assembly without giving proper intimation.
Responding to this, Reddy said: “The leaders have gone to a meeting. I request you to postpone the session to the next day,”
“The government has called the winter session in Belagavi. If ministers are not present in the House, it will affect the business of the Assembly. The Assembly is important to me. If the meetings and food is important to you (for BJP ministers) then let me know your stand,” Kageri said, expressing anguish over the BJP government’s lackadaisical attitude to the House.
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Only two ministers present
It may be noted that when Kageri took the BJP leaders to task, Minister for Home Affairs Araga Jnanendra and Minister for Muzrai Shashikala Jolle were the only two Cabinet ministers present in the House.
The Congress and JD(S) legislators came down heavily on the Cabinet ministers for not ensuring their colleagues were present in the Assembly.
“This displays the commitment of the government towards discussing and addressing the issues pertaining to North Karnataka,” deputy Opposition leader and Mangalore MLA UT Khader lashed out at the government.
KPCC Campaign Committee chairman and Bableshwar MLA MB Patil told South First: “It is unfortunate. Ministers have to be present in the House. This is being an election year, all the parties are busy in the poll activities.”
Kumaraswamy puts yatra first
Even as the BJP came under fire for not taking the Belagavi Assembly session seriously, JD(S) legislators too were no different.
On the advice of JD(S) leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, most of the party’s elected representatives skipped the winter session in Belagavi.
Most JD(S) leaders are already busy campaigning for the 2023 Assembly polls and taking part in Kumaraswamy’s Pancharatna Yatra. It is currently in the districts of the South Karnataka region.
Only JD(S) legislators HD Revanna, Bandeppa Kashempur, KM Shivalinge Gowda, Sa Ra Mahesh, and few other leaders participated in the winter session.
North Karnataka issues ignored
One of the main purposes of conducting winter sessions at Belagavi was to discuss issues relating to the districts of North Karnataka, often said to be overlooked by the government. Apart from the Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute, no major matter concerning the region was discussed in the winter session.
Expressing unhappiness, BJP leader and Muddebihal MLA AS Patil Nadahalli said: “It is disappointing that even after most of the prominent political positions in the state are held by elected members from North Karnataka, none of them bothered to raise issues related to this region in this session.”
“I believed the main reason to hold the winter session in Belagavi was to have detailed discussion on issues important for the development of the region. I was proven wrong,” added Nadahalli.
“In this session, we did not discuss agriculture, infrastructure, irrigation, tourism or any other issues related to North Karnataka.”
Three-week session sought
Calling for a three-week winter session in Belagavi, Congress MLA MB Patil said: “The first thing is this is a very short session in Belagavi. Nine-day session is not enough to discuss any issues because the first-day is dedicated to expressing condolences and other activities.”
“The government has to conduct the session for a minimum of 21 days for a comprehensive discussion on this region. It is also the last winter session of the current government and next is the budget session. The government has to make a proper plan on conducting the winter session at Belagavi instead of holding it just for names sake,” said Patil.
It may be noted that Chief Minister Bommai had reiterated before the media that his government was committed to having a detailed discussion on North Karnataka in the House. However, Bommai himself did not display any commitment over the matter in the Assembly.