Belagavi: For at least 10 days every year, Bengaluru nearly ceases to be the capital of Karnataka as the entire state government machinery moves to Belagavi for the winter session.
Since it was inaugurated in 2012, the Rs400 crore Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi—about 500 km from Bengaluru —turns into the seat of power, hosting the chief minister, government officials from all over the state, security personnel and the media.
This year, two trucks of files have been moved from Bengaluru to Belagavi which include documents from the previous legislature session, key bills, and papers on developmental and social welfare schemes among others, according to one legislative assembly official who wished to remain anonymous. Only a skeletal staff is left behind in Bengaluru, who will remain on call for last minute file requests from Belagavi.
At least 500 officials from various government departments will be in Belagavi for the session and their stay, transport and all other “official requirements” are supposed to be taken care of by the state, according to the 2015 Belagavi session notifications. This is apart from the red carpet welcome that needs to be arranged for the VIPs—starting with the chief minister, his council of ministers, the rest of the elected representatives and top bureaucrats.
Rooms and suites at all private hotels in the locality are taken under the district administration days before the session and allocated to visiting dignitaries and officials.
It is also a security headache for police officials who must mount security cameras on rooftops and stop protesters. The local police commissioner’s office has to find accommodation and food for the 3,000-4,000 additional security personnel—a task in itself, G. Radhika, deputy commissioner of police (Belagavi) said.
According to estimates, it costs Rs1.5-2 crore per day to operate the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha during the winter session. For the remainder of the year, it remains a monument, with an upkeep cost of around Rs4 crore per year.
According to Harish Ramaswamy, professor of political science at the Karnataka University, Dharwad, this entire exercise of shifting capitals is “symbolic”. According to him, conducting the winter session in Belagavi was to show ownership of the bordering city (Maharashtra claims Belagavi as its own), make the people of North Karnataka feel not neglected and to take up issues of the largely unconnected and backward region during the session.
“This is more an expenditure than a benefit. The same issues can be discussed in Vidhana Soudha (Bengaluru) itself. There is no real social or economic impact,” he says and adds that it only benefits private investors pumping money into hospitality infrastructure.