Bhardwaj's address to joint legislature session deemed to have been read

The address of Karnataka Governor H.R. Bhardwaj to a joint session of the State legislature on Thursday ended as a damp squib, with the Governor refraining from reading the prepared address owing to the din caused by the Opposition.

With this, a precedent was set in the Karnataka legislature, with the address by the Governor being deemed to have been read.

The entire Opposition — the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) — prevented the Governor from going ahead with his address on the grounds that it was prepared by a corrupt government, and he should not be a party to such an address.

Even as the Governor stood ready to read his address, Opposition members kept shouting that he should not.

It is customary for the Governor to address a joint session when the legislature meets for the first time in a new calendar year or when a new government takes charge.

Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, shocked by the development on the floor of the legislature, told The Hindu,

“The behaviour of the Opposition is undemocratic and unwarranted. We are ready for a discussion and are willing to provide all information and documents. The defeat in the panchayat elections has obviously upset the Opposition.”

Congress members said the address prepared by the government is a “booklet of lies” and consequently the Governor should not read it.

“We are neither against the government nor the legislature. We want the Chief Minister to resign and we will prevent the legislature proceedings,” they said.

The brief 10-day legislature session is the first since the Chief Minister won a vote of confidence on two occasions in October. Several Governors in the past — the last being T.N. Chaturvedi who, in February 2005, could not read his address due to exhaustion — have had their addresses interrupted.

While Mr. Chaturvedi announced his address as deemed to have been read, Khurshed Alam Khan, V.S. Rama Devi and Govind Narain had on occasions read their address through the din of slogans raised by the Opposition who demanded that the address be read in Kannada and not English.

The present instance is expected to widen the rift between the Governor and the State government irrespective of the fact that Mr. Yeddyurappa, after a meeting with the Governor on December 31, categorically stated that he would meet the Governor every fortnight to ensure a better rapport.

Incidentally, the Governor is fully empowered by the Constitution to expel those legislators who obstruct him from delivering his address to the joint session.

Such an example was set in Rajasthan in 1965 when the then Governor G. Nihal Singh expelled some of the members of the Opposition who prevented him from delivering his address.

The expelled members challenged the matter in the Rajasthan High Court, which ruled that the Governor is empowered to take such an action when there is an obstruction to the duty cast on him.