UT Khader becomes first Muslim to be elected Speaker of Karnataka Assembly; focus back on Cabinet

Following Speaker election, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his deputy DK Shivakumar headed to Delhi to finalise Cabinet expansion plans.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published May 24, 2023 | 6:49 PMUpdatedMay 24, 2023 | 6:51 PM

Karnataka Assembly Congress

The Karnataka Legislative Assembly witnessed history in the making on Wednesday, 24 May, when UT Khader was unanimously elected as its 23rd Chairman.

Khader became the first Muslim leader to serve as Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly, creating history of sorts. He is also the youngest person to occupy that chair.

The Congress leader and five-time MLA filed his nomination for the Speaker post on Tuesday.

The last day of the three-day Assembly session began with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah proposing Mangaluru MLA Khader’s name for the post of Speaker. It was seconded by Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar.

As there was no other contender for the post, pro-tem Speaker RV Deshpande put the proposal to vote, and it was unanimously adopted by the House.

As per convention, the ruling party’s nominee is generally elected the Speaker by a unanimous decision.

Khader served as deputy leader of the Opposition in the previous Assembly and also as a minister in the past.

From Siddaramaiah to Shivakumar to BJP leader and former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai to all the senior MLAs and first-time MLAs congratulated the newly elected Speaker.

Many senior leaders, including Congress MLAs TB Jayachandra and Basavaraj Rayareddy, expressed apprehensions about the Assembly losing its quality in recent times and appealed to the Speaker to work towards the betterment of the Assembly.

Addressing the house, Khader said: “I am honoured to be the Speaker of the Assembly at a very young age. With the cooperation of all the legislators, I will work towards maintaining the respect of this chair.”

He added: “I appeal to all the legislators to discuss the issues of women, farmers, youth, students, working class, common people and the poor in the House. I have not sat in this chair to work for any party or group. I will work as per the wishes of the Constitution.”

He expressed gratitude to the Congress leaders, including Siddaramaiah, for electing him Speaker. He also recalled the contributions of the erstwhile Wodeyar family to the legislature.

Also read: Meet the first-time MLAs of Karnataka

CLP meeting at Vidhana Soudha

Siddaramaiah, who is also the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP), asked all the party legislators to work towards fulfilling the expectations of the people of their respective assembly segments in the CLP meeting held at Vidhana Soudha on Wednesday.

Congress has chaired its 3rd CLP meeting since the election results were declared.

The meeting started with Siddaramaiah extending wishes to the Congress members and newly-elected Speaker Khader.

According to the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), Siddaramaiah instructed the legislators: “The people of the state have entrusted us with huge expectations and given us a huge majority. MLAs have to focus on development and meet the expectation of the people in their respective segment in the next five years.”

He added: “All the legislators must actively participate in the Assembly session and have to attend the session to counter the false allegations of the BJP.”

Pointing to the finances, he said: “The people of the state have suffered huge losses due to the discriminatory policies of the Centre. We have also been treated unfairly in the finance commission. It is also unfair on the tax front.”

He added: “Our share in the taxes paid by the people of the state is not being given adequately. We must claim our share through active pressure and demand.”

He further said: “Even though injustice is being meted out from the center to the state, the Karnataka MPs are not speaking up for the people of Karnataka. This is also being noticed by the people.”

He continued: “Even during Covid-19 and floods, these parliamentarians did not speak in front of the Centre on behalf of the state. Therefore, they should be given a proper reply in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.”

Congress MLA Prakash Rathod told South First: “The legislature party meeting began with welcoming Harapanahalli MLA Latha Mallikarjun, who won as an independent and daughter of late former deputy chief minister MP Prakash, as an associate member of the party.”

He added: “The chief minister gave strict instructions to all the MLAs to work towards the development of their respective segments and attend the Assembly sessions without fail. He also spoke about the financial position of the state and step-motherly treatment being meted out by the Union government to Karnataka.”

Also read: Karnataka Cabinet expansion likely on 26-27 May

Cabinet expansion back in focus

With speculations rife about the Congress expanding the Karnataka Cabinet and allocating portfolios by 27 May, Siddaramaiah, Shivakumar, Cabinet ministers and many MLAs — who are aspirants for Cabinet posts — are flying to Delhi on Wednesday.

On the day of the chief minister’s swearing-in ceremony, only nine Cabinet ministers, including Shivakumar, took oath. The party is yet to fill the remaining 24 Cabinet posts.

On condition of anonymity, a senior Congress leader told South First: “Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar are both flying to Delhi to meet the high command to discuss the Cabinet expansion. The meeting with the party high command is scheduled on Thursday as none of the top brass is available on Wednesday.”

The leader added: “It is not just the chief minister and the deputy chief minister. The Cabinet ministers and many MLAs are also flying to the national capital. The ministers are lobbying for portfolios and MLAs for Cabinet berths. The Cabinet expansion is likely to happen by 27 May.”

Sources in Congress suggest that there is hectic lobbying by several leaders to include themselves and their supporters in the cabinet. The ruling party is likely to have a cabinet of 30 or 32 ministers and leave a couple of berths vacant if there is a need to placate dissenting voices.

Also read: Will end moral policing, says new Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah

Bommai slams portfolio allocation delay

While Siddaramaiah was introducing his Cabinet ministers in the House on Wednesday, Bommai questioned the chief minister over the delay in the allocation of portfolios to ministers.

In response, Siddaramaiah said that his Cabinet would soon be allocated portfolios.

As soon as the chief minister introduced the ministers of his Cabinet in the Assembly, Bommai intervened and said, “Happy that the chief minister has introduced the ministers to the House. They have all worked as ministers in the past.”

He continued: “Congratulations to the chief minister and all the ministers, but it would have been appropriate if the chief minister had introduced ministers after allocating portfolios to them. Why has it not happened? It should be done at the earliest. In my opinion, it will be good if it is done at the earliest.”

Assuring the portfolios would be allocated soon, Siddaramaiah pointed out: “BJP leader BS Yediyurappa in the past served as the lone member of the Cabinet for quite some time, before inducting ministers.”

He added about his own team: “We will give them the responsibility at the earliest. How long was BS Yediyurappa alone in the cabinet as the chief minister? You need not have any doubts, they (Ministers) will be given responsibility at the earliest.”

Bommai replied: “Yediyurappa was alone for some time because he was the only person that had taken the oath of office. Here, it is a different scenario.”