The Karnataka Legislative Assembly on Tuesday passed bills enhancing salaries and allowances of the Chief Minister, Ministers and legislators.
Faced by disruption for the fifth consecutive day, due to protest by Congress MLAs, demanding the sacking of Minister K S Eshwarappa over his statement on the national flag, the session was cut short, but not before passing two bills without discussion.
The session that began on February 14 was scheduled to conclude on February 25. It has now been adjourned till March 4, for the budget session.
Congress legislators have been staging 'day-and-night' protests, whereby they spent the night inside the Assembly and staged demonstrations from the well of the House during the day, thereby disrupting the proceedings, which Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai termed as "irresponsible".
Amidst the din, the House passed the two bills - The Karnataka Ministers Salaries and Allowances (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and The Karnataka Legislature Salaries, Pensions and Allowances (Amendment) Bill, 2022, and adopted the motion of thanks to Governor's address, without any discussion.
The bills were moved by the government citing that they are long pending and a considerable increase in the cost of living as the reasons. The hikes will result in a recurring, additional expenditure of approximately Rs 92.4 crore per annum.
The bill on Ministers' salaries and allowances proposes to increase the salary of the Chief Minister from Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 per month, the salary of Ministers from Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000, and sumptuary allowance for both will be increased from Rs three lakh to Rs 4.50 lakh per annum.
It also proposes to increase the house rent allowance of Ministers from Rs 80,000 per month to Rs 1.20 lakh, while the allowance for maintenance and upkeep of residence and layout and maintenance of gardens has been increased from Rs 20,000 per month to Rs 30,000. Also, their petrol expenses to be paid by the government has been increased from one thousand to two thousand litres. The Ministers' tour allowance per day has been hiked to Rs 2,500 per day.
Meanwhile, the bill on Legislature salaries, pensions and allowances, proposes to increase the monthly salary of the Legislative Assembly Speaker and Legislative Council chairperson from Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000, while the monthly salary of the Leaders of the Opposition has been increased from Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000. It also proposes to enhance the salary of MLAs and MLCs from Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000 per month.
Sumptuary allowance for Speaker and the Council chairperson will go up from Rs three lakh to Rs four lakh per annum. All MLAs and MLCs will get Rs 60,000 every month as constituency travelling allowance, and they will also get a pension of Rs 50,000 per month. The bill also proposes salary and allowances of government and opposition Chief Whips.
Placing the bill for the consideration of the House, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister J C Madhuswamy said, "from 2015 the salaries and allowances of Chief Minister, Ministers, Chairman, Deputy Chairman, Speaker, Deputy Speaker were not revised, diesel and petrol rate have exponentially increased, medical allowance is low and house rent has increased. Considering all this, we have decided to increase the half of the existing amount in all these scales."
He said, "In the same way salary, allowance and TA/DA of legislators have also not been increased since 2015, keeping it in mind, we have brought the bill to increase it. Also we have introduced a provision in the bill to increase salary and allowances once in five years based on the cost of index like in the central government bill. So we need not introduce a bill to increase."
As the House met for the day, Congress members trooped into the well of the House and started shouting slogans demanding action against Eshwarappa, the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister.
Slogans like - "Down, down BJP", "Suspend Eshwarappa", "Eshwarappa desha drohi (traitor)", "Down Down desha drohi BJP government", "Speaker give justice", "This government is RSS' puppet", "We want constitution, not Manuvada" - among others marred the proceedings.
Recently, Eshwarappa had claimed 'Bhagwa dhwaj' (saffron flag) may become the national flag sometime in the future, and the same may be hoisted on the Red Fort then. He, however, had said the tricolour is the national flag now, and it should be respected by everyone.
After taking up the question hour amidst protest, Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri allowed the tabling and passage of the two bills and then asked the CM to make the government's reply on motion of thanks to the Governor's address, amid sloganeering by Congress MLAs from well.
Bommai hitting out at the Congress, said, "it is painful, for the first time in the Karnataka legislative assembly's history without discussion on the Governor's address we are adopting the motion of thanks. This shows that the opposition has failed in fulfilling its responsibilities and has conducted itself irresponsibly. They are a black mark in the history of our legislature."
"Their conduct shows that they are unfit to be in opposition also. They are doing this for the sake of politics, and it is against the interest of the people. We will go before the people and tell them about the opposition Congress "conduct," he said.
Noting that there is a tense situation in the state and at educational institute campuses, Bommai said, "the government is committed to implementing the high court interim order (on hijab and uniform issue).
In such a situation, the opposition should join hands and send a message of unity. A youth has been killed in Shivamogga; in such a situation, How the opposition should behave? what is your (Congress) contribution in maintaining peace?"
The Chief Minister also listed out the achievements of the government in handling the COVID and flood situation. He pointed to the achievements in the field of labour welfare, health, investment inflow, infrastructure facilities in urban areas including Bengaluru, irrigation, SC/ST welfare, among others.
Despite his repeated request and attempts to bring order in the house, as Congress members continued with the protest shouting slogans, Speaker Kageri adjourned the House till March 4.
"All my attempts- by requests and calling meetings of leaders, to end the stalemate have failed. The five-day session got wasted, three more days will also be wasted like this," he said expressing disappointment.
With PTI inputs.