Contentious bill passed as Cong stages walkout

Insight Online News

Bengaluru, Sep 17 : The Karnataka Legislative Assembly passed the Karnataka Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj (Amendment) Bill as Congress staged a walkout.

The act which was passed

late on Thursday seeks to provide for the constitution of the delimitation commission and “snatch” the State Election Commission’s (SEC) power in carrying out the exercise.

The Congress and BJP members sparred over the bill yesterday.

The Opposition led by Congress had alleged that the appointment of delimitation commission to redraw constituencies of Taluk and Zilla Panchayats was a ploy to postpone the already delayed polls at the grassroots level.

Elections to ZPs and TPs were scheduled to be held in May-June this year, but were postponed due to Covid.

The government had on Wednesday tabled the Karnataka Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj (Amendment) Bill 2021 in the assembly that allegedly seeks to transfer the power of setting up a delimitation commission to the government from the State Election Commission (SEC).

Raising the issue in the assembly, former Speaker and Congress member Ramesh Kumar said the setting up of the delimitation commission is nothing but a manipulation to stall the election and bring down the importance of local bodies.

“The government is launching an assault on the Constitution of the country. I fully oppose this bill,” he said.

Kumar said delimitation is a much needed exercise to draw the contours of the constituencies and ensure implementation of the reservation system, but the government wants to reduce the process to a farce with a malicious intention.

“Delimitation can only be meaningful and serve its purpose if the integrity of the process is protected,,” he added.

Countering the charges, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister JC Madhuswamy said the delimitation process to be undertaken by the proposed delimitation commission is not against the Constitution.

“We brought this bill because we do not want to give powers to the deputy commissioners,” he said.

The Constitution also is very clear that there is no connection between itself and the delimitation process, Madhuswamy said.

“The DCs only have the powers to supervise, monitor and conduct elections,” he argued.

Earlier too, delimitation was exercised by governments only and the election commission was not allowed to function, Madhuswamy challenged.

“We are not less than anybody in democratic values and principles. We are not against reservation. Even the Constitution does not give any chance to go against reservation,” he said.

“Haven’t you made a reservation as per your wishes? I challenge, how was Hassan (reservation) done? How was Mandya done? Was he (EC) autonomous? Was he made to function freely,” Madhuswamy asked.

Earlier, Congress member and former minister Krishne Byre Gowda said the government’s move nullifies the herculean task on delimitation and rotation of roster undertaken by the state election commission over the past year or so.

He challenged Madhuswamy’s claim that the SEC’s list was fraught with gross errors with over 2,000 petitions being filed in the High Court as a lame excuse.

Gowda also said the entire exercise will be carried out afresh by a new commission, to be headed by a retired additional chief secretary.

Another Congress member and former minister Priyank Kharge said the BJP fears going to polls because of the recent change of guard, price rise and other factors.

“The election at the panchayat level is the real barometer of the mood of the people and BJP fears it,” he said.

Kharge said the fresh delimitation exercise will take at least a year-and-a-half to submit its report giving the ruling party so much more breathing time.

He also alleged that the BJP fears about the impartial manner in which the SEC had changed the contours of constituencies and and roster system would affect its prospects adversely.

UNIINDIA

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