Bengaluru: A bill to split the Bengaluru civic body into two or more corporations was passed on Monday in the Karnataka legislative assembly, ignoring protests by opposition parties.
"The Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Amendment) Bill, 2015, to split the Bruhat Bangalore Mahnagara Palike (BBMP) into two or more corporations has been passed in the assembly for governing the city better," Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister T.B. Jayachandra told reporters.
The ruling Congress convened a special one-day session of the state legislature to amend the law for bifurcating or trifurcating the civic behemoth after Governor Vajubhai Vala returned the ordinance to that effect last week.
"As the population of Bengaluru has increased to over eight million (80 lakh), it has become difficult for the BBMP to administer the city, provide amenities and implement civic schemes to improve the infrastructure," Jayachandra told the lawmakers in defence of the amendment bill.
Moving the bill earlier, Jayachandra said an experts committee, set up by the state government, had also recommended in its interim report trifurcation of the civic body, which was expanded in 2007 by including seven city municipal councils, one town municipal council and 111 surrounding villages to increase its civic wards to 198 from 100.
Opposing the bill vehemently, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) members rushed into the well of the house and urged the government to withdraw it, as splitting the BBMP would not serve the purpose it was intended.
"It is not necessary to divide the BBMP to provide better civic amenities. The session should have been called to discuss damage to crops owing to unseasonal rains," Leader of Opposition and former chief minister Jagadish Shettar said.
JD-S leader in the house and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy questioned the government's intention to split the civic body, whose five-year term is lapsing on April 22 and the Karnataka High Court on March 30 directed the state Election Commission to hold the civic polls by May 30.
"If the state government wants to split the BBMP, why did it suddenly supersede it on April 18 and delayed holding its election? The government should have respected the governor's decision to reject the ordinance," Kumaraswamy said.
Defending the bill, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah recalled that the BJP had advocated dividing the civic body when it was in power from 2008-2013.
"Though the BJP manifesto 2013 promised splitting the BBMP, just as the Congress had, it is opposing the bill only for political gain. Our party is not making this move for the fear of elections. Splitting of BBMP is to bring transparency in administration," Siddaramaiah reiterated.
In the 225-member assembly, including one nominated member, the ruling Congress has 122, the BJP 46, the JD-S 40 and remaining are Independents.
When the bill was moved in the legislative council for debate and approval, Chairman Shankaramurthy adjourned the session till April 23 as the combined opposition (BJP and JD-S), which is in majority, protested against it.
In a related development on Monday, the Karnataka High Court restrained the state Election Commission from announcing the poll date for the BBMP till April 22.
A division bench, headed by Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice Ram Mohan Reddy, directed the poll panel through an interim order not to decide the election date till Wednesday when the case would come up for hearing again.
The order was issued on a review petition filed by the state government on April 7 against the March 30 directive of a single bench of Justice B.V. Nagarathna to the state EC for holding the poll by May 30, as the five-year term of the civic body ends on April 22.
State poll panel commissioner P.N. Srinivasachari was scheduled to brief the media on Monday on the calendar of events to conduct the civic poll next month.