December 13, 2021 8:17:08 am
The winter session of the state legislature set to begin in Belagavi on Monday is expected to be stormy, with the BJP-led government expected to table controversial bills — including the proposed legislation against religious conversions — and the Opposition likely to raise allegations of corruption.
At the session – set to conclude on December 24 – the state government is expected to introduce an anti-conversion bill with stringent punishments for those found guilty. The opposition Congress has said it will oppose the bill, which is yet to be cleared by the state’s law department.
“The law department is studying the anti-conversion laws enacted in other states. A draft would be placed before the state cabinet which will be meeting in Belagavi. If the law department submits the draft then the bill will come up for discussion in the Belagavi session of the state legislature,” Chief Minister BasavarajBommai said on Sunday.
Leader of the opposition in the Karnataka legislature Siddaramaiah said the bill is part of the BJP’s “communal agenda”.
“There is a provision in the Constitution for people to convert to a religion of their choice. If there are forcible conversions strict legal action can be taken. The anti-conversion law is part of the communal agenda of the BJP. The BJP does not have the courage to seek votes on the basis of their accomplishments so they are injecting the venom of communalism into the minds of people. They want to win polls with the Hindutva agenda,” Siddaramaiah said.
Similar laws have been introduced in other BJP-led states, including Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Their validity has been challenged before the courts.
Christian leaders, including the Archbishop of Bengaluru Peter Machado, have publicly spoken against such a law in Karnataka.
Apart from this, the state government is also expected to revoke the laws related to the controversial farm legislations, which have now been repealed in Parliament. Last year, the BJP passed the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) (Amendment) Act, 2020 despite protests by the Opposition.
The Opposition is set to corner the government on allegations of corruption. The state contractors’ association has alleged kickbacks up to 40 per cent are the norm for projects in the state. Another issue likely to be brought up is that of cases linked to 26-year-old Srikrishna Ramesh, an alleged hacker accused of being behind a cryptocurrency heist.
The winter session is being held in the north Karnataka city after a gap of two years. The state government decided to go ahead with it despite concern over emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is keen on the Belagavi session to highlight issues related to north Karnataka, where it has a substantial electoral base.
CM Bommai said on Sunday he was hopeful of a constructive session. “The legislature session is being held in Belagavi after two years… I wish to have fruitful debates on issues related to development and redressal of grievances of the people of the state,” he said.
“The people of north Karnataka are keen to witness serious debates especially about issues related to the development of their region. We also want to decide on many important issues,” the chief minister said.
The opening day on Monday is expected to begin with condolences for several leaders, including one for the Chief of Defense Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, who was killed in a chopper crash last week.
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