Bengaluru: The first winter session of the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in Karnataka, scheduled to start from Monday, is expected to commence on a fiery note as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the principal political opposition, is looking to corner the administration on a host of farmer related issues like unpaid dues to sugarcane growers and the yet-to-be-implemented ₹ 49,000 crore farm loan waiver.
This would also be the first time the state legislature would be convening in the northern district of Belagavi, about 500 kms from Bengaluru, after several groups revived the separate statehood demand by the region’s residents, who allege that the government has been more focused towards the south, which perceived to be more prosperous and politically significant. Incidentally, the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha was constructed and the winter session was moved to Belagavi to address the imbalance in the state that is skewed against the north—home to the second most arid region in the country and abject poverty.
The northern part of the state, especially the Mumbai-Karnataka region is a stronghold of the BJP, which is trying to corner the barely six-month-old government in its bastion.
“There is a drought in the state, sugarcane dues have not been paid and the farm loan waiver is only on paper," Jagadish Shettar, former chief minister and senior BJP leader said. The BJP is expected to bring an adjournment motion to highlight the problems of sugarcane growers.
Adding to the drama is the BJP’s claim that several Congress leaders would not make it to the session, hinting that many had decided to switch sides that would bring down the government, which only has a slender margin above the halfway mark in the 224-seat lower house. Senior Congress and JD(S) leaders, have dismissed any such fear, reiterating that the two parties will continue their alliance for the full five-year term. The alliance partners, who came together after the state’s electorate delivered a fractured verdict in May, have also alleged that the BJP has been trying to poach several of its legislators with money and plum ministerial berths.
The BJP has denied these charges but said that several legislators, unhappy with the coalition agreement, have expressed interest on their own to move across the aisle. The BJP, so far, has been unable to push the government on the defensive despite levelling corruption allegations among other serious charges.
Fresh after having won four of the five by-polls on 3 November, the JD(S)-Congress alliance is confident that it can retain its flock without any defections despite the growing dissent from various quarters within its ranks. The coordination and monitoring committee, set up to ensure the smooth functioning of the government, has already announced that the cabinet expansion will be held on 22 December or right after the session. The much delayed cabinet expansion for seven of the 34 available portfolios has been one of the biggest reasons for the rising dissent, especially within the Congress, which sacrificed to accommodate berths for its smaller partner.