Karnataka Assembly session begins today: JD(S) eyes Chairman post, BJP looks to tighten Council grip

On Wednesday, Horatti, who is also the JD(S) leader in the council, indicated that talks were on between his party and the BJP for an alliance in the council on the grounds that the Chairman's position is given to him.

The BJP government in Karnataka is set to renew efforts to gain control of the legislative council in the state legislature when it convenes on Thursday. Its prospects have received a boost with the opposition JD(S) offering support on the condition that its senior leader Basavaraj Horatti is made council Chairman.

The BJP needs the support of the JD(S) to oust current Chairman K Prathapchandra Shetty against whom the party has moved a fresh no-confidence motion after an earlier motion taken up in the winter session – amid confusion over JD(S) support for it – was rejected by the Chairman on the grounds that it not in order.

The BJP has 31 members in the 75-member Upper House while the Congress has 29 (including Chairman) and the JD(S) 13 – following the death of Deputy Chairman S L Dharmegowda last month. The council has one Independent member. The Congress has been in control of the council in alliance with the JD(S) since 2018.

Since the BJP came to power, the JD(S) has shown inclination to support it in an issue-based manner and at the end of the winter session all 14 of its MLCs had given a letter to the secretary of the legislative council expressing support for the no-confidence motion against the Chairman.

On Wednesday, Horatti, who is also the JD(S) leader in the council, indicated that talks were on between his party and the BJP for an alliance in the council on the grounds that the Chairman’s position is given to him.

“I had a meeting with the Chief Minister yesterday. Our 13 MLCs, party leaders H D Deve Gowda and H D Kumaraswamy have held discussions. We have decided to ask for the council Chairman’s post and to support them (BJP) for the Deputy Chairman’s post,” said Horatti, a former Chairman of the House. “I am a senior member in the House and there is general opinion among everyone that I should be made Chairman. We are asking for the post.”

The BJP is most likely to accept the offer as it needs a hold in the council. It needs the JD(S) support in the council to push through legislation on its agenda such as the Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, 2020, which was not tabled in the winter session, and new labour laws defeated in the monsoon session by the Congress-JD(S) combine.

The JD(S), however, supported the BJP in passing a land reforms amendment law in December in the council.

The winter session of the council ended in pandemonium after the BJP government got the Governor to direct council chairman Shetty to reconvene a legislature session – with the express purpose of ousting him. This was a few days after the winter session had been adjourned sine die by the chairman after rejecting a no-confidence moved by the BJP members.

The council witnessed unruly scenes with BJP members locking the chairman out of the house and getting deputy chairman Dharmegowda of the JD(S) to occupy the chairman’s seat. Dharmegowda was pulled out of the chair by Congress legislators before the chairman was allowed to enter the House and adjourn the proceedings sine die.

While the BJP and JD(S) were finalising strategies for a tie-up in the council – with the chairman’s post going to the Horatti – Dharmegowda committed suicide on December 28, citing among other things the insult he suffered in the council.

In the absence of a deputy chairman to conduct proceedings – in the event of the no-confidence motion against the chairman being taken up – the House will have to elect a deputy chairman first, council officials have indicated.

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