National

Karnataka Congress Faces Setback As BJP-JD(S) Alliance Rejects Temple Fund Bill

The proposed bill suggested collecting five per cent of the income from temples earning between Rs 10 lakh and less than Rs one crore, and ten percent from temples earning above Rs one crore.

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Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah
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The ruling Congress in Karnataka suffered a setback as the BJP-JD(S) alliance in the Legislative Council rejected a bill targeting the collection of funds from temples earning over Rs 10 lakh annually.

The Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Bill, 2024 had secured approval from the Legislative Assembly earlier in the week.

But on Friday, it was defeated by a voice vote in the Upper House, where the opposition enjoys a majority.

What did the bill propose?

The proposed bill suggested collecting five per cent of the income from temples earning between Rs 10 lakh and less than Rs one crore, and ten percent from temples earning above Rs one crore.

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The funds would be placed into a Common Pool Fund managed by the 'Rajya Dharmika Parishath'. This fund is intended to support the welfare of priests and maintain 'C' category temples (state controlled) with annual incomes below Rs five lakh.

The act that was earlier amended in 2011 had made way for five per cent of the net income of temples with annual income between Rs five lakh and Rs 10 lakh and 10 per cent of the net income of temples with annual income of over Rs 10 lakh would come to the fund.

The amendment bill had created a huge controversy, as it angered the opposition, especially the BJP, which charged the ruling Congress with trying to fill its 'empty coffers' with temple money, while, the Congress had sought to turn the tables saying the saffron party had effected an amendment in 2011 to seek funds from high-income Hindu shrines.

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What did the opposition in Karnataka say?

The Opposition leader in Council, Kota Srinivas Poojary, who previously served as the Muzrai Minister under the BJP government, supported the initiative to offer social security to temple priests but objected to the redirection of temple revenue. He asked why the government couldn't allocate budget funds for their well-being.

The opposition also opposed the proposal in the bill for nomination of the temple committee president by the government.

Muzrai Minister Ramalinga Reddy attempted to persuade the opposition by assuring the House that the government would not meddle in the selection of the temple committee president and would also decrease the proposed amount to be redirected from the temples to the general pool.

Highlighting that the bill only proposes minor changes to what the BJP government had proposed in 2011, he said, the intention is the welfare of Archakas at 'C' category temples and the upkeep of such temples.

As the opposition insisted that changes be made to the bill before it is passed, Reddy sought time till Monday, as he needed to discuss it with the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah as it involves financial implications.

However, the Deputy Chairman M K Pranesh, who was in the Chair, did not give time till Monday stating that there is no such provision as the House has already taken up the bill for consideration.

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The Bill was subsequently put to vote and it was defeated by the opposition BJP-JD(S) combine.

This is the second such setback to the Congress government in this session, as the BJP and JD(S) combine had referred the Karnataka Souharda Cooperative (Amendment) Bill 2024 to the select committee earlier this week.

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