Bengaluru: Indicative of the fierce political battle ahead between the ruling and opposition parties in Karnataka after the Congress party assumed office, the first day of the first session of the Assembly after the May 2023 elections was a “complete washout” as the BJP members raised slogans against the “dhokha Congress sarkar.”
The ruling Congress retaliated by appointing a judicial commission to probe the alleged corruption charges against the previous Bommai government.
The proceedings of both the Assembly and the Council were marred by sloganeering and charges and counter-charges and dharna in the well of the House as the BJP moved an adjournment motion demanding an urgent discussion on the government’s failure to implement its “five guarantees” to the people even 45 days after the formation of the government.
Former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai, who had given the notice for adjournment, said the Congress had “misled and cheated the people for the sake of votes” and the Opposition had a right to demand an explanation from Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
Siddaramaiah loses cool
Siddaramaiah said the government was ready for a discussion on the subject, but only after the question hour and ‘zero hour’ as per protocol. When the shouting from the opposition benches continued, Siddaramaiah lost his temper and said the rules had to be followed and he would not tolerate the “stubborn behaviour” of the opposition, leading to further chaos.
Outside the legislature, former chief minister and state BJP stalwart, BS Yediyurappa along with his associates sat on a dharna in front of the Gandhi statue demanding “full implementation of the five guarantees” as promised by the Congress party. Yediyurappa plans to sit on dharna on all days of the legislature session. He wants the Siddaramaiah government to give 10 kg of rice apart from 5 kg being supplied by the Centre to the people and “we will not accept even one gram of rice less.” Unable to find sufficient rice in the market to meet its requirement of 2.28 lakh kg per month under the “Anna Bhagya” scheme, the government plans to give cash compensation for five kilos at the rate of Rs 34 per kilo.
Seers serve a warning
Ever since the election results, several ministers in the Siddaramaiah government have been spewing venom at the previous BJP government, either threatening to file cases regarding “corruption charges” or reverse certain laws regarding the anti-conversion and the anti-cow slaughter Act, the land reforms Act and the APMC Act. However, the senior seers of various Lingayat and Vokkaliga mutts, who had supported the Congress party during elections, have expressed strong opposition to any move to repeal the anti-conversion legislation or the prohibition of cow slaughter in the state and warned of launching an agitation if the government went ahead.
In the past two days, the Siddaramaiah government has sought to put the state BJP on the back-foot by re-opening the “Bitcoin case” and setting up a judicial inquiry headed by a former high court judge into allegations of corruption made against the Bommai government. The president of the state contractors association, Kempaiah, who had made the allegation over a year ago, had failed to submit a single evidence supporting his allegation to the Lokayukta, Justice Shivaraj Patil, who had offered to conduct a thorough inquiry.
The state government has also constituted a Special Investigation Team headed by Manish Kharbikar, ADGP, Economic Offences Cell in the CID, to “re-investigate” the Bitcoin case which surfaced about three years ago. Some politicians and senior bureaucrats had allegedly received monetary benefits in the Bitcoin case linked to suspected drug peddler and ‘master hacker’ Srikrishna alias Sriki. Srikrishna was arrested by the CCB on November 17, 2020 in a drug peddling case. The police uncovered a wider network involving the hacking of e-governance and other websites and siphoning off money through Bitcoins. The Bommai government was accused of not following up the case seriously and even allowing the accused Sriki to escape from police custody. Bommai had, however, refuted the charges and said the investigation was on.