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Setback for Congress govt in Karnataka as Bill proposing to tax temples defeated

Slamming the Karnataka government, the BJP state chief said that temple funds should be dedicatedly utilised for renovation of temples and to facilitate work beneficial to devotees, rather than diverting it for other purposes, which would be an injustice and betrayal of people's religious beliefs.

Shashwat Bhandari Edited By: Shashwat Bhandari @ShashBhandari New Delhi Published on: February 24, 2024 7:12 IST
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah speaks inside
Image Source : PTI Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah speaks inside Karnataka Legislative Council during a session, in Bengaluru. (File photo)

In a setback for the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government, the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Bill 2024, which proposes to impose 10 per cent tax on temples having revenues above Rs 1 crore failed to pass in the legislative council.

Though the bill was passed in the state Assembly, it failed to pass in the legislative council where the BJP has more MLCs than Congress.

In the Karnataka legislative council, the BJP has 35 members, Congress 30 and Janata Dal (Secular) has eight.

As members of the BJP and the JD(S) raised objections, Deputy Chairman of the Council, MK Pranesh, called for a voice vote, in which the Bill was rejected after the opposition members voted against it.

Seven members voted for the Bill, while 18 members voted against it.

'Why only Hindu temples and not other religions?' Yediyurappa questions Siddaramaiah govt

Slamming the Congress government, former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa questioned why only Hindu temples were being scrutinised and not the incomes of other religions.

Proposing the Bill in the Council, Transport and Muzrai Minister Ramalinga Reddy said that as per the present rules, the government is getting Rs 8 crore from the temples. After the new rule is passed, the government will earn Rs 60 crore and from these funds, the ‘C’ grade temples would be managed, Reddy said.

Stating that there are more than 40,000 priests at the 34,165 ‘C’ grade temples across the state, the minister said, "We will provide funds to the priests to build homes and provide scholarships to their children. We also provide insurance cover to them."

Opposing the Bill, the leader of opposition in the Council, Kota Srinivas Poojari, said that it is not tenable to collect 10 per cent from the income of temples.

"If Rs 100 crore is collected, Rs 10 crore has to be given to the government as per the Bill. But, one must first deduct the expenditures and then the government can take its share. The government should grant Rs 200 crore for the development of ‘C’ grade temples in the state," Poojari said.

BJP MLC N Ravikumar said the state government should not even think of collecting 10 per cent income from the temples.

"Rs 60 crore is not a big amount for the state government. Hindu temples must be allotted with Rs 300 crore for development work," he said.

After this, Minister Reddy said that he will present the Bill on Monday, which was objected to by Deputy Chairman Pranesh, who called for a voice vote for the Bill to pass.

After the Bill was rejected, the BJP members raised ‘Jai Sri Ram’ slogans inside the House, while their Congress counterparts chanted ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Bheem’.

On Wednesday, the controversial Bill was passed by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly.

Meanwhile, taking to social media, the BJP claimed that as per the Bill, persons belonging to other religions can become part of the temple management process.

"This is a malicious intent of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to dry the coffers of the temples with the help of people from other religions, much the same way he has emptied the state's treasury," the BJP alleged.

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