After at least 100 members of Vidhana Soudha secretariat staff as well as ministers tested positive for the coronavirus, the ruling BJP and the opposition parties on Monday agreed to shorten the ongoing eight days monsoon legislature session to six days.
One of the main reasons for the opposition parties to agree to the ruling party's decision to shorten the session was allowing the parties to debate on six contentious bills of the 32 bills the ruling party is planning to get approval from the House.
Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru after the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting headed by the Speaker Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri, Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah said, "The scenario is similar across the country. Every state legislature is cutting short its days. But, as the opposition parties we have held our ground, did not agree to the initial proposal of bringing down business days to three, instead we have succeeded in making them agree to continue this session till Saturday. We will take all contentious issues, which they have already promulgated through ordinances."
The three days which the Opposition has agreed to cut short will be compensated by calling the house early at 10 am and adjourning the house late in the day till (7 or 7.30 pm), he added.
Siddaramaiah further said that the ruling party has not come to terms with the opposition parties regarding question hour discussions as the opposition parties want discussions on at least some questions if not all. "We will slowly resolve this as well," he said.
While, the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president, D K Shivakumar said that the opposition parties have not agreed to the suggestions made by the ruling party to curtail the ongoing legislature session.
"As we know that at least as many as 60 staff members of secretariat have tested positive till yesterday and nearly 35 to 40 legislators have tested positive, hence, we all have decided to have the session till Saturday," he said after the BAC meeting.
Several legislators from ruling and opposition parties, told reporters on the condition of anonymity that they feared to attend the session due to the pandemic.
This fear was subtly conveyed by Siddaramaiah too, as he said that none should be affected by this dreaded disease. "This disease is such that it won't even allow your near and dear ones to come near you. It's very painful. When I came out of hospital, my entire family went into isolation. In both cases, neither I could go and see them nor could they come and see me. That was a very horrific experience I have ever had," he said.
Earlier in the day, an eight-day monsoon legislature session began with unprecedented mandatory security measures like compulsory face masks, gloves, face shields and entry to only those carrying COVID-19 negative certificates to all legislators, staff members, marshals and journalists.
Keeping COVID-19 safety protocols in consideration, special seating arrangements were made for MLAs and MLCs in adherence to physical distancing guidelines.
First time legislators were made to sit in fibre-glass enclosures which separated them from their adjacent seats on Monday.
"Till date at least as many as 70 MLAs, MLCs and more than dozen ministers have been tested COVID-19 positive, as a result of this, the secretariat has taken these measures," an official said.
The Assembly and Legislative Council was adjourned for an hour for lunch after obituary references to former president Pranab Mukherjee and other Members of Parliament, leaders and prominent personalities who have passed away during the interregnum. As per the protocols, the session recommenced and adjourned for the day owing to custom, when a sitting legislator passed away. Sira MLA Satyanarayana of the Janata Dal (Secular) passed away earlier this year and a bye-election will be held in the constituency.
The Congress is trying to push hard for a debate on the state's economy, alleged corruption during COVID -19 management, drugs scandal, to corner the government. The JD(S) planned to counter the ruling party on three contentious ordinances which were in line with the union government's farm reform bills recently.