At a time when the number of legislature sittings has reduced in the State, the flag issue that has gripped the ongoing 10-day joint legislature session has nearly washed out the proceedings so far.
While only the Governor’s address to the joint legislature has been conducted smoothly, the crucial Question Hour has been conducted amid din by the protesting Congress members, who have been seeking dismissal of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister K.S. Eshwarappa for his statement on hoisting saffron flag on Red Fort. Other legislature proceedings have not been possible at all since Wednesday.
In the last four years, while the number of sittings of the legislature has come down, frequent disruptions have robbed the house of more meaningful and lively debates concerning public issues and welfare. For instance, since 2017 when the Assembly met for 40 days, it declined to 33 days in 2018, 18 days in 2019 (when COVID-19 pandemic brought several restrictions), 31 days in 2020, and 30 days in 2021. In the decade between 2010 and 2020, only in 2014 (53 days), 2015 (58 days), and 2016 (55 days) the Assembly met for more than 50 days. Incidentally, during the last BJP Government too, the number of sittings of the Assembly was low — in 2010 the Assembly met for 31 days, in 2011 for 31 days, in 2012 for 33 days, and in 2013 for 45 days.
“It is unfortunate that despite negotiations, the House could not be brought under order and it is not running properly. This is the worst legislature session that I have witnessed in my career,” said Legislative Council Chairman Basavaraj Horatti, who is also the senior-most member of the House. Acknowledging that the number of sitting days had declined, he said: “We have a convention by rule that the House has to meet for at least 60 days in a year, which is not met. In the past, there have been instances of legislature sittings of even 90 days in a year.”
Secretariat sources said that if all the agenda of both Houses are to be completed, the Government incurs a cost between ₹1.5 crore and ₹2 crore daily. This includes allowance of ₹750 per day for about 1,000 employees posted for legislature work and DA of ₹1,000 given to the legislators. “Three days of no business means that the taxpayers money of at least ₹4.5 crore has been wasted.”
In some cases, Government spends thousands of rupees to prepare for answer to questions posed by the legislators. “There have been instances where officials from far flung districts in Kalyana Karnataka have travelled to Hyderabad by road and then taken flight to Bengaluru only to bring the answer or be part of the Government when it presents the answers,” sources said.
Meanwhile, Legislative Council sources said that according to Rules of Procedure, the protesting members cannot raise slogans or exhibit placards in the House. “If the opposition is not satisfied, it has the right to protest in the Well. But Congress members are raising slogans and holding placards in the Well, and disrupting the house proceedings too.”
Legislature session likely to wind up early
The ongoing legislature session that is scheduled till February 25 is expected to be curtailed in the early part of next week since both Houses have not been able to transact business according to the agenda. Legislature Secretariat sources said that Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is likely to place the reply to debate on the Governor’s speech in the Assembly by making a few statements since Congress members are protesting. A similar exercise is likely to happen in the Council, and by all possibility the joint session is likely to be adjourned early, sources said.