MLCs' nomination: Delay lengthens aspirants' list

Bangalore March 30. It is almost four months since three of the nominated members of the Legislative Council retired and the Government does not seem to be in a hurry to fill the vacancies.

The hopes in Congress circles of nomination to the vacant seats during the current session of the legislature have been belied. The two Houses will be adjourned sine die on Monday. The election of the Deputy Chairman of the Council has also not come through.

There was some expectation among the aspirants that the Chief Minister, S.M.Krishna, who was in Delhi today to attend a Congress rally, would take up the matter of nomination with the AICC President. But reports reaching here say that Mr. Krishna is returning to Bangalore without meeting Sonia Gandhi. The office of Deputy Chairman is vacant since December 4, 2002 when David Simeon of the JD (S), one of the nominated members, retired. The other two nominated members to retire were K.B.Shanappa (JD-U) and M.S.Siddaraju (who had been expelled from the Congress).

The names of V.R.Sudarshan and the elderly member, Winnifred Fernandes (both Congress), have been mentioned for election as Deputy Chairman. The name of the former still has the edge as he is regarded as having the requisite ability to face the House, which has a strong Opposition line-up, better than that in the Lower House.

There is also a debate in Congress circles on whether the three nominated seats be used to reward party loyalists or should the Government go by the loosely worded constitutional prescription of honouring those distinguished in fields namely art, science, literature, cooperation, and social service. Successive governments have used the last two fields to confer distinction on party loyalists through nominations. The J.H.Patel Government nominated the former Leader of the Opposition, K.H.Srinivasa, who was a leading light of the Janata Dal, in July 1998. But he has the distinction of being an able parliamentarian. The other two nominated at that time were the noted journalist, P.Ramiah, and S.D.Karpurimath, who belonged to the Dal ranks. In 1984, the Janata Party Government, headed by Ramakrishna Hegde, nominated to the Council the then president of the Party, D.Manjunath. In December 1996, the Deve Gowda Government preferred Janata Dal activists for nomination -- K.B.Shanappa, David Simeon, and M.S.Siddaraju. The last named created a record for a nominated member by defecting to the Congress. He resigned his seat and the present Government renominated him only to find him training the guns against the Chief Minister himself.

Four of the five persons nominated to the Council by the Government in June 2000 were party members -- Prabhakar Kore, B.A.Hasanabba, M.D.Ramesh Raju, and the film comedienne Umashree. The other person nominated at that time, L.Hanumanthaiah, is a Kannada writer.

An opinion has grown strong in the Congress that with the exception of one or two most of those nominated in recognition of their distinction in various fields have failed as legislators. It is noted that Kannada writers belonging to a certain school of thought have benefited.

The nominated members' contribution to improving the standard of debate in the House or that in the legislature and standing committees has been questioned. If Lata Mangeshkar has played truant in the Rajya Sabha, the well-known Hindustani musician, Gangubai Hanagal, had no words to utter as an MLC.

A view has grown in the Congress that merited persons in its ranks should be named to the Council and that weightage should be given to those who have served the organisation for long without recognition and those belonging to the "neglected sections" of backward classes.

The procrastination in the matter of nomination is only lengthening the list of aspirants. Among the latest to join it are a former communist, Ambika Jalagar from Hospet, a college teacher in Gulbarga, Saraswathi Chimmalagi, and a party leader from Udupi District, Ghafoor. Ms. Jalagar and Ms. Chimmalagi belong to OBCs and the latter is stated to enjoy the support of some of the ministers from the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. However, the three names outside the Congress ranks in the reckoning are those of the film star of yesteryear, B. Saroja Devi, Sudha Murthy, a writer in her own right and wife of N.R.Narayana Murthy of Infosys Technologies, and the former Chairman of the Kannada Development Authority, Baragur Ramachandrappa.

The Congress members in the running for nomination are Aravind Jatti, KPCC Secretary and son of the former Vice-President, B.D.Jatti, D.S.N.Gowda, former MLA, V.S.Ugrappa, KPCC spokesman, Prakash Rathod, KPCC General Secretary, and Siddu Nyamagouda, former Union minister.

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