The Belagavi winter session opened to empty chairs as only a handful of legislators marked their attendance on day one of the ten-day session. Skipping the sessions have become a norm of the day among the legislators that they are no longer ashamed of doing it.
Consider this. 'Ever absent' Congress MLA from Mandya MH Ambareesh leads the absent legislators' pack with just four days of attendance in the 218 days of 14 sessions. And he is followed by Congress MLA from Kalaghatagi Santhosh Lad with five days of attendance, according to a report in Prajavani.
In the four-and-half-year session of this Congress government, as many as 14 sessions have been held in 218 days. But legislators like Sambhaji Lakshman Patil (MES) - 62, Ganesh Prasad Hukkeri (Congress) - 63, Iqbal Ansari (JDS) - 71, Anand Singh (BJP) - 82 and S Raghu (BJP) - 84, Varthur Prakash (Congress) - 102, CS Shivalli (Congress) - 104 and SS Mallikarjun (Congress) - 104 have marked their least of attendance, reports Prajavani.
It may be recalled here that Ambareesh who has been elected from Mandya Assembly Constituency has remained notoriously absent from the session. In fact, a complaint was also lodged against him for his prolonged absence with the Speaker. There was a demand to disqualify him too.
However, Ambareesh had come up with the most trivial reason for his absence. He had blamed the air condition in the Session hall that was making fall sick, frequently so, he would not attend the session.
When the empty chairs at the earlier sessions grabbed headlines, Speaker KB Koliwad had brought in the rule to make it mandatory for every legislator to sign. He had entrusted each party to ensure that their legislators attended the sessions without fail.
In fact, as per the rule, they have to mark their attendance for both morning and afternoon's session - that accounts for their reimbursement too. The session timings are from 11 am to 6 pm with a lunch break for one hour.
But it is reported that some of the legislators were so angry at the attendance registration that they had even torn off the attendance book. "Are we school children," was their reason, reports Prajavani quoting Assembly Secretary S Murthy.
However, there were some legislators who attended on majority of the days.
They are Rafiq Ahmed (Congress) - 211, BM Nagaraju (Congress) - 211, Shivaram Hebbar (Congress) - 210, KG Bopaiah (BJP) - 210 were among those who attended the session on the majority of the days.
A member of the legislature is paid Rs 2,000 per day as an allowance for attending the House when the legislature is in session. Mind you; this comes apart from their salary and other perks. The rule has it that the legislators need to take prior permission from the Speaker or Chairman before taking leave. But most legislators seldom do it.
It is sad to note here that while the legislators continue to bunk the sessions, they continue to enjoy their perks. But unfortunately, there is no provision to disqualify a member for the prolonged absence.
With State having an innumerable issues to discuss, the people's representatives continue to bunk the sessions having absolute no regard for the voters whom they represent. But as this is the last session before this government goes to polls, it is only to be seen whether the legislators honour their responsibility.