The Karnataka state assembly has convened in Belagavi for the winter session, which began on 19 December 2022, amid raging border dispute with the neighbouring state of Maharashtra. The 10-day session witnessed a stormy beginning as the Basavaraj Bommai-administration unveiled the portrait of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in its assembly hall amid huge protest by the opposition.
The session is important for both the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress, as the joint session and the budget remain to be held before the elections are announced, which are due in May 2023. The three political parties – BJP, Congress and the JDS – are also likely to attack and counter each other on a host of issues before setting the tone for the assembly elections.
Here are some of the top issues that the BJP has spoken about and is also likely to table the in the Belagavi session:
Savarkar's Portrait Unveiled in Belagavi Assembly
The Karnataka assembly speaker Vishwanath Hedge Kageri unveiled the portrait of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a Hindutva ideologue, inside the assembly hall in Belagavi, leading to massive protests by opposition parties on the steps outside the Suvarna Soudha building.
So what is the BJP’s defence?
"What happens inside assembly is the prerogative of the speaker."
Defending Savarkar's portrait in the assembly the BJP leaders also said,
"Savarkar’s contribution to the nation’s is known to all."
"Congress’s opposition to Savarkar is only limited to his links with Hindu Mahasabha."
Meanwhile the Congress's Siddaramaiah alleged,
"The choice to have Savarkar’s photo was a unilateral decision."
"What is the need for erecting a painting of the person accused in Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination?"
"Bommai government wants to divert attention of the people from real issues like law and order."
The protest was led by Siddaramaiah, leader of opposition in Karnataka, who was joined by Congress MLAs who held photos of Valmiki, Kanaka Dasa, Basavanna, Kuvempu, BR Ambedkar and Sardar Patel in opposition.
Karnataka-Maharashtra Border Dispute
Another raging dispute that the Karnataka assembly is likely to discuss is the border row with neighbouring Maharashtra.
The tension between the two states heightened as hundreds of volunteers from the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti and leaders from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) staged protests near the Kognoli Toll Plaza near Belagavi.
However, the law and order situation was brought to control with:
Police imposing CrPc Section 144.
Stopping of many NCP and Shiva Sena leaders from entering Karnataka.
The Karnataka BJP's stand on the matter is very clear. CM Bommai said,
"State government is fully prepared for a legal battle in the Supreme Court against Maharashtra."
"Sharad Pawar's dream will not become a reality despite politicising the matter.
Meanwhile, the Congress's Siddaramaiah has accused the BJP of:
"Not resolving the matter despite BJP being in power in Karnataka, Maharashtra and the centre."
"Using border row to influence election in May 2023."
Ban on Halal Certification
Yielding to growing demand by Hindutva and some right-wing hardline outfits, BJP MLC N Ravi Kumar is all set to introduce a private member's bill, seeking blanket ban on halal certification.
The Bommai government's stand on the matter is still unclear, with the CM stating that the private member bill has its own position.
But the BJP's general secretary has claimed,
"Muslim organisations do not have the right to certify products."
"Halal certification is being issued illegally."
"Crores of rupees collected in the name of halal certificates are being used to fund illegal activities."
On the contrary, the opposition Congress has requested the speaker not to approve the private bill on halal meat. Senior leader BK Hariprasad said,
"Purpose of the bill is to polarise voters on communal lines."
"BJP wishes to divert public attention from issues like corruption.
"BJP's agenda is to selectively target minorities."
Conclusion: Influencing Majority Community or Communalising the Electorate?
The BJP and the Bommai-led government in Karnataka has decided to table a host of issues in the winter session and are justifying their claims by asserting that they require immediate attention.
Speaking about the above issues, a source in the state BJP unit, close to The Quint said,
"If you observe carefully, all the above issues are directly or indirectly affecting Hindus residing in Karnataka."
"The BJP's sole focus is to reach out to the majority community which has been neglected by the Congress for over five decades."
"This doesn't mean other issues at hand will be ignored, but they wouldn't take precedence."
However, the chief minister confirmed that the Uniform Civil Code in the state will not be introduced in this winter session. He further stated,
"We are gathering information regarding developments in various states and checking what the Constitution says vis-a-vis the UCC. We will come up with a decision before the elections."
On the contrary, the Congress has accused the Bommai government of trying to set the majoritarian tone for elections and for having undermined the rights of the minorities in the state.
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