K’taka assembly session begins tomorrow amid boundary dispute, upcoming polls

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Belagavi (Karnataka): Amid the raging border dispute with neighbouring Maharashtra and around five months to go for assembly elections in Karnataka, the winter session of the state legislature will begin at ‘Suvarna Vidhana Soudha’ in Belagavi on Monday.

This will be the last session of the incumbent BJP government in the northern district headquarters town bordering Maharashtra.

This session assumes importance for the Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai-led administration, as only the joint session and budget session will be left before elections are announced. The polls are likely to be held by April-May 2023.

The 10-day session till December 30 is likely to be stormy as both the ruling and opposition sides are appeared to attack and counter each other on a host of issues.

The opposition parties are likely to corner the government on issues like alleged corruption and scams in various departments, voter data theft scandal, the border dispute and its handling by the government, law and order situation with incidents of communal flare-up and cooker blast in Mangaluru, farmers’ demands including an increase in fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane.

With elections round the corner, the opposition parties are also likely to target the government on the issue of governance, “unfulfilled” promises made in the manifesto ahead of 2018 polls, and infrastructure woes in several urban areas especially Bengaluru due to torrential rains and deluge caused by them.

With the BJP government’s decision to hike reservation for SCs from 15 per cent to 17 per cent and STs from 3 per cent to 7 per cent, yet to be ring-fenced under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, leaving it vulnerable as it exceeds the 50 per cent caps fixed by the Supreme Court, the opposition, especially the Congress, is likely to raise the issue.

The reservation related demand by various communities like Panchamasalis and Vokkaligas is likely to be raised by members from both opposition and treasury bench sides; also, internal reservation issue among Scheduled Castes is also likely to come up for discussion.

The ruling BJP too is planning to counter the opposition especially the Congress, seeking to capitalise the statement by its leaders’ “trivialising” the Mangaluru pressure cooker blast, and “anti-Hindu” remarks.

Karnataka PCC President D K Shivakumar has made a statement seemingly suggesting that the Mangaluru pressure cooker blast was “orchestrated” by the BJP government to divert attention from the voter data theft scandal, while its working president Satish Jarkiholi has recently made remarks on the origins of the word Hindu and its “dirty meaning”.

The reported factionalism within the Congress, especially the game of one-upmanship between Shivakumar and Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah, are likely to be used by BJP to take a dig at the principal opposition party.

With the session taking place in the north Karnataka region, a separate discussion is likely on the issues here.

Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri has said six Bills are likely to be discussed during the session.

Of the six draft laws to be taken up for discussion and approval, four are new ones. Two Bills including the Kannada Comprehensive Development Bill, were already tabled in the previous session in Bengaluru.

Besides, the session is being held amid the raging border dispute with the trigger being the possible hearing on the issue in the Supreme Court, on a suit filed by Maharashtra.

The row had intensified in the last couple of weeks, with vehicles from either side being targeted, leaders from both states weighing in, and pro-Kannada and Marathi activists being detained by police amid a tense atmosphere in Belagavi.

Maharashtra claims Belagavi and some nearby places belong to it.

Stepping in to defuse the border tensions, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on December 14 held a meeting with chief ministers of the two states and asked them to set up a six-member joint ministerial panel to address related issues and not make any claims till the Supreme Court pronounces its verdict on the dispute.

Belagavi, bordering Maharashtra, has been hosting legislature sessions once a year since 2006.

As many as nine Winter sessions have been held in Belagavi in 16 years. Seven of them were held inside the Suvarna Soudha and two outside.

Suvarna Vidhana Soudha, modelled on the Vidhana Soudha, the state secretariat in Bengaluru, was built as an assertion that Belagavi is an integral part of Karnataka.

Other than the session held once a year for about two weeks, the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha building remains mostly unutilised.

It has been a long-standing demand of the people of north Karnataka to shift some government offices to Suvarna Vidhana Soudha, aimed at addressing regional imbalance, and for the benefit of citizens of the regions, who otherwise have to travel to Bengaluru.

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