Introspection time for the State Assembly

Glorious past: The diamond jubilee function tomorrow will be marked by nostalgia

It is celebration time for the State Assembly that turns 60 on Monday. The Assembly Hall will be the venue for a special function organised to mark the historic event.

There are not many surviving members of the Assembly, who can give a peek into the initial days of the Assembly - only five of them are alive and they will go down memory lane at the function, where they will be felicitated.  
The archives of the State legislature too do not throw much light on the proceedings of the first day of the Assembly. But photographs bring alive the moments of the day.

The Assembly - which had seen the dignified conduct of Kadidal Manjappa, Kengal Hanumanthaiah, D Devaraj Urs - who served as chief ministers - and others, was witness to unruly behaviour of members on October 12, 2010 over disqualification of five Independent members.

Independent MLA Goolihatti Shekar went to the extent of climbing on a chair with his shirt torn and hollering at the Speaker for disqualifying him. Even Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah had climbed on his desk to register his protest against the government.

The 60 watch and ward staff in the Assembly hall and the police outside the hall could not restore order as members indulged in unruly behaviour, leading to the adjournment of the House. Ironically, on Monday, all those MLAs who had created ruckus in the Assembly will be present at the diamond jubilee celebrations.

Historic events

The Assembly hall has been the venue of many historic events such as the Saarc meet in 1986, the all-India presiding officers’ meet in 2002 and the centenary of the Legislative Council. The Secretariat is renovating the hall at a cost of Rs 15 crore.

Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Kumar, who is overseeing the arrangements for the mega event, told reporters that Justice Venkatachalaiah had been requested to deliver the keynote address as he is a “keen observer of the political developments.”

In his capacity as a former Chief Justice of India, his comments would be apt for the occasion, said Kumar.

The five surviving members of the first Assembly will be presented a memento (Vidhana Soudha statuette), a cardamom garland, Kodagu peta, shawl and fruit basket.

Kumar said the Assembly can accommodate 260 people and that additional seating arrangements had been made. The chief minister,  former chief ministers and members who are being felicitated will be seated in the front row.
The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members will be seated in the officials’ gallery, while the other invitees will be in the Speaker’s gallery.

Radhakrishnan’s address

The portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabh Bhai Patel, B R Ambedkar and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan adorn the walls of the Assembly.

On October 11, 1963, the then President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan had addressed the Assembly after unveiling the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. He had told the legislators to follow the religion of Mahatma Gandhi - quest for truth. Radhakrishnan had told the legislators that whenever they get angry, they must look at the portrait, which would “calm them.”

He said he was confident that the portrait would inspire them to follow the teachings of Gandhi. The portrait continues to be in the same spot, above the Speaker’s podium. The President had said that Gandhi was a perfect democrat in the sense that he was aware of the unlimited powers and had warned against such dangers.
But going by the manner in which a majority of the present MLAs conduct themselves, the portraits have made no impact.

No salary

In 1952, as a first time MLA, U M Madappa was not drawing any salary. He was only getting sitting fees of Rs 15 per day, along with to and fro bus charge of Re one per mile. Sixty years later Madappa, a two-time MLA is drawing a pension of Rs 20,000 per month. A couple of days ago, he received a letter from the government saying that he will here onwards receive a pension of Rs 30,000.

Five surviving members of the first Assembly - Ambadas Rao, Sikandarabad, A P; Madappa U M, Chamarajanagar district; Mulka Govinda Reddy, Bangalore; Thimme Gowda T G, Tiptur; Vasantha Rao L Patil, Belgaum - will be

Special gift

To make the event memorable, the Speaker’s office is presenting all the invitees a fragrant gift box. ‘Gold’ and ‘Classic’ soaps, agarbathi, sandal dhoop, powder and handwash have been packed in the box, which has a picture of the Vidhana Soudha on it. As many as 400 such gift packs have been dispatched by the Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Limited for the occasion.

Assembly trivia

* The first sitting of the first Assembly (then Mysore Legislature) was held at Old Public Offices (present building of the High Court of Karnataka) from June 18 to 30, 1952
* The first session also witnessed the election of the Speaker. H Siddaiya defeated Shantaveri Gopala Gowda in the election by 74 votes
* The first sitting in the present Assembly hall in Vidhana Soudha was held on December 19, 1956
* The strength of the Assembly increased from 100 to 208 in 1957, 216 in 1967 and 224 in 1978
* The maximum number of sittings (98 days) was in 1963. The least number of sittings (17 days) was in 2008
* Elections to the Assembly have been held 13 times in the last 60 years: The fifth Assembly had the longest tenure (five years, nine months) - March 24, 1972  to December 31, 1977
* The seventh Assembly had the shortest tenure (one year, six months) - July 24, 1983 to January 2, 1985
* Two Assembly sessions have been held outside Bangalore - both in Belgaum (September 2006 and January 2009)
* Over the last six decades, the total strength of the Assembly has reached 225, including a nominated Anglo-Indian member

Function agenda

* Arrival of Governor H R Bhardwaj and Justice M N Venkatachalaiah to Vidhana Soudha at 11 am. Programme begins with National Anthem and Naadageethe
* Introductory speech by Assembly Speaker K G Bopaiah
Former speaker and MP D B Chandre Gowda to share his memories
* Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda and Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah to felicitate five surviving members of the first Assembly (1952-57)
* Release of souvenir
Justice Venkatachalaiah, retired CJI, delivers keynote address
* Address by the governor,
all five former speakers, former chief ministers & MPs
invited Valedictory
* Lunch and cultural programmes at Banquet Hall, Vidhana Soudha, music by Sangeetha Kulkarni and Prakash Sontakki
* Exhibition of photos of first Assembly by Information Department, exhibition of books by Kannada Book Authority near Banquet Hall

What they say...

“The present political scenario is not very encouraging. During our days, things were very different. The present day political parties don’t enjoy the trust of the people, because they are not respecting the Constitution. They need to do a lot of introspection. I am delighted to be at the Assembly as I will be meeting Mulka Govinda Reddy.”

U M Madappa (91 yrs) 

“When I contested for MLA seat, I had spent Rs 30,000 for transport and campaign. I used to take public transport from Tiptur to Bangalore to attend legislature session. People used to elect only sincere and honest persons. But now, spending huge sums on electioneering is leading to corruption. I have not purchased even one site. I am happy to live on my pension money.”

T G Thimme Gowda (100 yrs)

“The present day elected representatives are eager to make money. As long as they do not change their mindset, the State will not progress. In the olden days, we did not know the meaning of corruption. People not only pressured us to contest elections, but also spent money for campaigning. But now, people expect money to vote.”

Mulka Govinda Reddy (96 yrs)

“There is a saying: ‘Yatha Raja Tatha Praja’. But now, it is reverse. Elected representatives are like the people. The system is so rotten that it is difficult to improve. But the fact is that in the olden days, the people’s expectations from the government were not much as compared to the present days. I was sworn in as minister four times and I resigned as many times, before completing the term.”

Vasantha Rao L Patil (90 yrs)

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