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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

Karnataka set to call off MLAs' South America junket

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Bangalore, December 28, 2013
First Published: 15:36 IST(28/12/2013) | Last Updated: 15:39 IST(28/12/2013)

The Karnataka government is likely to cancel the proposed fortnight-long South American tour of legislators after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is learnt to have expressed his displeasure over it to chief minister Siddaramaiah.

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Siddaramaiah, who was in Delhi on Friday to attend the CMs' conference, was curtly told it would be highly inappropriate to take such a tour at a time when many areas of the state were reeling under a severe drought.

Congress central leadership is upset with the way opposition parties, including the fledgling Aam Admi Party, tried to cash in on the tricky issue.

The Karnataka CM was told that at a time when the party was on the offensive against corruption, such a tour would dent its image badly.

On his return, the CM said he would have a word with the speaker soon to resolve the issue.

A section of the legislators, however, have opposed the move to dump the junket saying it would be inappropriate to call off such "an important study tour" in the face of what they call a bitter media campaign.

Interestingly, when the issue snowballed into a controversy the CM had justified the junket saying it was a routine exercise.

A 30-member delegation of legislators was planning to take off to three Latin American countries in January first week on a fortnight study tour, a shorthand for junkets carried out by politicians and bureaucrats.

Out of the 30, 18 legislators had given the go-ahead. The "study tour" of the Estimates Committee of the Legislature, comprising MLAs from all parties, involved visits to holiday destinations such as Rio De Janerio, Manaus, Iguassu, Lima, Cusco, and Buenos Aires, besides Dubai, according to the itinerary, PTI reported on Wednesday.

Among the destinations are the "exuberant ecosystems of Rio's tropical urban jungle" and shopping at Manaus, where they will experience rhythms of Samba, Tango and Paraguayan music during dinner and a show at a local restaurant", the PTI said.

The high-profile junket was planned when 65 taluks in the state were declared drought-hit and a central team visited some of them after the state sought increased fund allocation to meet the emergency.

Opposition leader HD Kumaraswamy, meanwhile, has asked party legislators to keep away from the junket.

"Why do legislators splurge when the state is in the grip of a drought?" he asked. Earlier the BJP and KJP (Karnataka Janta Party) had also asked their members not to join the tour.


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