- Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy said he was all for a second capital
- He said government considering shifting some offices to Belagavi
- Suvarna Soudha is a lookalike of Bengaluru's Vidhana Soudha
A north vs south debate in Karnataka has revived demands for a second capital for the state. On Tuesday, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy said he was all for a second capital and that the state government was considering shifting some government offices to Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi city.
"I had actually suggested this 12 years ago but the government which followed did not take it seriously. That is why we suggested the Suvarna Soudha be built there and why we have the legislature session there. The BJP is just making an issue now. In 15-20 days, I will make an announcement. I am also looking to make Mangaluru the economic capital," the Chief Minister told NDTV.
The Suvarna Soudha is a lookalike of the Vidhana Soudha - the state secretariat and legislature in Bengaluru - built to help Karnataka assert its hold on Belagavi which has been the focus of a decades-old dispute with Maharashtra.
Protesters fighting for "fair" treatment of the north have called for a bandhor shutdown on Thursday.
In 2006, when Mr Kumaraswamy's Janata Dal (Secular) was in power with the BJP, the state assembly had adopted a resolution backing Belagavi as Karnataka's second capital.
After Mr Kumaraswamy presented his first budget since coming to power with Congress's support in early July, his critics said the budget was tilted towards the southern parts of the state, where his party JD(S) has a good following.
The JD(S) won most of its 38 seats in this region.
The opposition BJP has seized on the topic. The BJP's B Sriramulu, a close associate of the Reddy brothers, the mining barons, had said in the assembly during a discussion on the budget that demands for a separate state would only escalate in the north if the government neglected the area.
Mr Sriramulu later clarified to NDTV that this did not mean he favoured separate statehood.
The BJP's state chief and former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa also targeted Mr Kumaraswamy over north Karnataka.
Lingayat seers from the region gathered in front of the Suvarna Soudha in Belagavi on Tuesday. Lingayats, seen largely as BJP supporters, are a dominant community in the north of the state.
The ruling coalition has been accused of not giving enough prominence to leaders from the north when it came to allotment of cabinet portfolios. Both the Chief Minister and his deputy G Parameshwara are from the southern part of the state.
Two top Congress leaders in the state, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and state party chief Dinesh Gundu Rao, are also from the south.
The northern Hyderabad-Karnataka part of the state was given special status by the central government in 2012 to facilitate the region's development.
North Karnataka has long been considered a less developed part of the state compared to the more prosperous southern parts.
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