Pandemonium prevailed in the Karnataka Assembly on Wednesday with Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj K S Eshwarappa and State Congress president D K Shivakumar charging towards each other stopping short of coming to blows.
The tense situation came up when Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah was making preliminary submission seeking to move an adjournment motion demanding a dismissal and sedition case against Eshwarappa for his recent statement claiming that 'Bhagwa dhwaj' (saffron flag) may become the national flag in the future.
The heated exchanges between the two began when Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri wanted to hear Eshwarappa's side as charges were made against him in the adjournment motion. Shivakumar, opposing it, said, "We cannot allow him (Eshwarappa to speak)." To this, Eshwarappa is said to have made some comments from the place where he was seated, but it was not clearly heard amid the chaos. Shivakumar, claiming that Eshwarappa said "this (House) is not your (Shivakumar) father's property" tried to charge towards him in a fit of anger.
The State Congress chief, along with some of his party MLAs, then walked towards Eshwarappa who, too, walked from his seat towards them and came close to each other. Realising that the situation may go out of control, the Speaker adjourned the House for lunch while Marshals, along with some MLAs from both sides, tried to pacify people indulging in heated exchanges and nearly coming to blows.
Earlier, both leaders were seen indulging in heated personal exchanges in the Assembly by calling each other "desha drohi" and "rashtra drohi". Shivakumar said, "Why do you want to hear about a person who has been involved in 'desha droha'" when the Speaker tried to give Eshwarappa an opportunity to speak.
This elicited a sharp reaction from Eshwarappa, who in turn called the KPCC chief the "desha drohi" (traitor) accusing him of looting the resources of the State and hence was put behind bars. "…you are on bail, not me." With legislators from both sides standing up in support of their leaders and involved in heated exchanges, chaotic scenes prevailed. The Speaker even asked the Assembly staff to switch off the mikes. Eshwarappa had recently claimed 'Bhagwa dhwaj' (saffron flag) may become the national flag sometime in the future and the same may be hoisted on the Red Fort then.
He, however, had said the tricolour is the national flag now, and it should be respected by everyone. Siddaramaiah, during his preliminary submission on adjournment motion, said Eshwarappa being a senior Minister has disrespected the national flag, and cannot continue as a Minister in the government, and hence should be dismissed immediately.
"Eshwarappa has made a statement that a saffron flag will be hoisted on the Red Fort in the place of the national flag, which is the symbol of our dignity…He made this statement on February 9, it was reported on February 10, today is February 16, till now the government has not taken any action against him," Siddaramaiah said. "According to me, the Chief Minister has to dismiss Eshwarappa from the Ministry. a statement he has lost the competence to continue as a Minister. The Chief Minister should have on his own dismissed Eshwarappa and cases should have been booked against him under section 2 of Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act and for sedition," he said while pointing out that a sedition case was booked against protesting farmers for hoisting their flag at Red Fort.
Noting that Article 51 (1) of the Constitution states in-Fundamental duties- that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the national flag and the national anthem, Siddaramaiah said they symbolise this country, its freedom and its people. He further said, "There is a flag code of India, also there is also Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, the section 2 of this- states that whoever in any public place or any other place within public view burns, mutilates, defaces, disfigures, destroys or brings into contempt, whether by words or acts-to the Indian National flag…shall be imprisonment for the term extending up to three years, or fine or both." Even according to the Indian Penal Code, disrespecting the national flag or Constitution or the national anthem comes under sedition, he added.
As Siddaramaiah demanded for dismissal of Eshwarappa and filing of sedition case against him, BJP MLA C T Ravi accused the Congress governments in the past of firing bullets at those who held the national flag in their hands. The former Chief Minister hit back stating that RSS never hoisted the national flag for long after independence. This resulted in heated exchanges between the opposition and Treasury benches as both sides accused each other of not being respectful to the national flag.
Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister J C Madhuswamy, jumping to Eshwarappa's defence, said as there is no material, what Siddaramaiah has raised does not come under the purview of adjournment motion which should be be rejected. Citing 'Kaul and Shakdher' to point out as to why the adjournment motion does not hold good, he said "There is difference between statement and interaction, and Eshwarappa, during an interaction, when electronic mediapersons asked will saffron flag be hoisted on Red Fort has said that someday in future saffron flag may become the national flag. Some day…after 200 or 300 (years)." "He (Eshwarappa) also went on to say that now the tri-colour has been constitutionally accepted as our national flag and it has to be respected. If anyone disrespects it, he or she will be anti-national…Where has Eshwarappa disrespected the national flag in what he has said, it does not amount to sedition," Madhuswamy further said, adding BJP is a party that hoisted national flag whether in Hubballi or Kashmir amid "golibar or guns targetted at its men". The Speaker then giving his ruling on the preliminary submission made by Siddaramiah, rejected the Congress' adjournment motion.
As Congress members continued to protest from the well, holding the national flag and demanding justice, Speaker Kageri adjourned the House for Thursday. Speaking to reporters later, Siddaramaiah said if Eshwarappa was not suspended and a sedition case was not booked against him, the Congress would stage a protest inside and outside the House.
"Tomorrow (Thursday) by 11 AM, we will decide and inform what we will do next, most probably stage round-the-clock protests in the Assembly. We will discuss and let you know," he said in response to a question.
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