Karnataka house session begins, Shettar sure of survival

Bangalore, Feb 4 (IANS) The Karnataka legislature Monday began the last session of its five-year term with the BJP ministry hoping to survive on a wafer-thin majority and getting the budget for the next year approved.

The 10-day session got off in an orderly manner with Governor H.R. Bhardwaj's customary address to the joint sitting of the assembly and the legislative council.

The assembly session is the last as elections to the 225-member house are due in May. Polls will be held to elect 224 members and one seat is filled by nomination.

The quiet beginning belied speculation that opposition Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular would demand that Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar first prove his majority as 14 ruling party members have quit the assembly and the resignations of two more members were pending with the speaker.

The 14 resignations have reduced the strength of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to 106, including the speaker, in the assembly. The BJP has the support of one of the seven Independents who is a cabinet minister. The nominated member is also a BJP member.

The combined opposition strength, including the six independents, stands at 103.

If Speaker K.G. Bopaiah accepts the two pending resignations, the BJP will be down to 104, including the speaker.

Among the 14 who have quit the assembly and the BJP are party's former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and 12 of his supporters in the party.

The two pending resignations with the speaker are also from Yeddyurappa's supporters.

Opposition parties have been vociferous in demanding that Shettar should quit and not present the budget for 2013-14 not only because his majority is in doubt but also because elections are due in May.

But Shettar is determined to present the budget Feb 8.

"There is no threat to my government. I will present the budget as scheduled," he told reporters after the governor's address.

Leader of opposition in the assembly Siddaramaiah of the Congress said that though the Shettar ministry "technically" enjoys majority, it "has lost moral right to stay in office and present the budget".

However, he said, the Congress would not move a no-confidence motion as it does not have the numbers. The party has 71 members in the assembly.

Besides, Siddaramaiah said, it would be like "flogging a dead horse".

In his address, Bhardwaj said the financial status of Karnataka was sound since tax revenues had doubled over the last five years.

"Tax revenue is 10 percent of the gross state domestic product (GSDP), which is among the highest in the country," the governor said.

Noting that the plan size had increased by 2.5 times during the BJP government, Bhardwaj said the per capita plan expenditure of Rs.6,810 was among the highest in India.

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