The new Congress government intends to review policies of the previous BJP government and “set it right”, Karnataka Minister Priyank Kharge said today, doubling down on comments that signal a reversal of decisions on the Muslim quota, the Hijab ban and the anti-conversion law.
“I have said this without any ambiguity. Any bill, executive order, or government order or any other bills that are regressive to the economic policies of Karnataka, that does not create employment, that creates disharmony in the state will be reviewed or rejected, if necessary,” Mr Kharge told NDTV.
In recent elections, the Congress scored a big victory in Karnataka, defeating the BJP by a comfortable margin. Last week, Siddaramaiah took charge as Chief Minister with DK Shivakumar as his deputy.
Asked to reveal legislation likely to be reviewed by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government, Mr Kharge named the anti-conversion and the anti-cow slaughter bills.
“Look at the opinion of the Finance Department. The Finance Department has ruled out their anti-cow slaughter bills saying it is regressive and we will have a loss of Rs 5,000 crore. Why did the BJP government bring that into the Assembly? The other bills are anti-conversion – it is against the Right to Privacy,” said the minister.
“The agenda is very clear. We want Karnataka to progress and anything standing in its way, we will remove those obstacles.”
Mr Kharge avoided a direct response to whether the Congress would make good on its promise to ban “organisations that spread hate like the Bajrang Dal” while campaigning for the May 10 election.
“The most important thing is to give good governance to Karnataka and ensure that we are back on track economically. Anybody who brings disrepute to Karnataka, who will create disharmony and do unconstitutional activities, they will be dealt with strongly within the ambit of the law and the Constitution. Why is BJP so flustered? I didn’t name RSS or Bajrang Dal? Do they know something I don’t? Are they hiding something?” Mr Kharge said.
The Congress’s promise prompted a huge offensive by the BJP, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing the party of insulting Bajrang Bali, or Lord Hanuman. The Congress later clarified that banning the Bajrang Dal would be under the Centre’s purview.
When the Congress won the Karnataka election by a strong majority, its workers celebrated by shouting “Jai Bajrang Bali” slogans, apparently mocking the BJP’s campaign.
Mr Kharge also hinted at the possibility of the Congress government overturning the Hijab ban in educational institutions.
“I’m speaking purely on data. Why are 18,000 children out of school? I’m not saying that it’s because of the Hijab or anything else. My prime objective of running the government should be to provide education to all children. If in the process there are laws that are going to be a deterrent, then isn’t it my responsibility to clear those obstacles?” he said.
On reversing the BJP government’s decision to scrap reservation for Muslims and replace it with quota for Lingayats and Vokkaligas, Mr Kharge said: “They churned out the caste cauldron so badly that nobody is happy, there is dissatisfaction among various communities and religions, and we need to set that right. we need to bring about social and economic equality.”
He said suggestions that the Congress only wants to keep Muslim voters intact ahead of the 2024 national election is only “by sore losers”, apparently referring to the BJP.