The 10-day session of the Karnataka legislature to be held in Belgaum from Monday is expected to provide a platform to the Opposition, much to the embarrassment of the government, to raise several key issues pertaining to administration and populist schemes. Opposition leaders are keen that there should be a constructive debate in preference to protests aimed at stonewalling the conduct of legislature business.
The resignation of Minister of State for Information Santosh Lad from the Council of Ministers on Friday has, in a way, taken the wind out of the Opposition sails, much to the relief of the government and, in particular, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. The Opposition was gearing up to rock the government with the belief that the Chief Minister was keen on defending his Minister.
This will be the fourth legislature session to be held in Belgaum — the first one was held in September 2006 by the coalition government headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy — and the second to be held in the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha. The Suvarna Vidhana Soudha was built at a huge cost primarily to highlight the fact that Belgaum is an integral part of Karnataka. It is another matter that the border issue with the neighbouring State of Maharashtra has been relegated to the background in recent months.
At least 10 legislative bills are expected to be tabled in the session, including the Karnataka Land Revenue (Amendment) Bill, popularly known as the Akrama–Sakrama legislation, which has been returned by the Governor with an advice on some changes that need to be incorporated. There are also several other bills pending before the legislature awaiting discussion and adoption.
The anti-superstition bill, a draft of which has been made over to the government by the National Law School of India University, is unlikely to be tabled since the government is yet to take a final call on the matter. While the Chief Minister is reported to be keen on the legislation, the Bharatiya Janata Party has said that it is opposed to even the bill being tabled let alone allowing its passage.
The former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar said the session in Belgaum holds high hopes for the people of the north Karnataka region. The occasion would be used to seek details from the government on the construction of the Kalasa-Banduri Nala, and the various schemes under the Upper Krishna Project that were pending completion, apart from the all-important matter relating to the sugarcane price, he said. Though the State government has fixed an advisory price of Rs. 2,500 for a tonne of sugarcane, an order is yet to be issued.
The ruling party, with 122 legislators, has a commanding strength in the 225-member Legislative Assembly and it is in a minority in the Legislative Council. The role of the Karnataka Janata Paksha, headed by the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, will be interesting to watch, with the KJP on the same wavelength as the BJP. Incidentally, Mr. Yeddyurappa had walked out of the BJP just days ahead of the Belgaum session last year.
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Kagodu Thimmappa is scheduled to inspect the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha complex on Sunday, primarily to ensure that all things are in place for a smooth conduct of the 10-day session. The staff of the Legislature Secretariat are already in Belgaum to oversee the arrangements.