Cong govt receives jolt as upper house rejects temple tax bill

Bengaluru, Feb 24 (UNI) Congress government in Karnataka suffered a major setback as the controversial temple tax bill was rejected in the Legislative Council by NDA partners here on Friday.

The bill was passed in the Legislative Assembly earlier this week but was defeated by a voice vote in the Upper House as the ruling Congress party does not enjoy majority in the upper house.

The Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment Bill 2024 mandates the state to collect 10 percent tax from temples having revenue exceeding Rs 1 crore, and 5 percent from temples having revenue between Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore.

The controversy, however, lies in two sections of the bill – Section 19(a) and Section 25.

Section 19(a) of the bill states that the funds collected under the “Common Pool Fund” can be used for the benefit of the Poor and Needy Organisations. But it does not clearly define the needy organisations and thus opens the doors for their misuse.

Section 25 of the bill allows the appointment of non-Hindu members in the management committees which amounts to a violation of the autonomy and the customary management practices of Hindu temples.

As a result, the bill is being termed as anti-Hindu for it seems to be tailor-made to siphon of temple funds and their misuse.

Karnataka BJP President Vijayendra Yediyurappa said on X, “The Congress government, which is adopting consistently anti-Hindu policies in the state, has now taken a crooked look at the revenue of Hindu temples and passed the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments bill to fill its empty coffers.”

He also alleged that Congress would use the funds for “another purpose” instead.

Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar said the bill has been in the assembly to fund the ATM of DyCM DK Shivakumar and CM Siddaramaiah which is a new low of appeasement politics.

“Rahul Gandhi is holding Bharat Jodo Yatra in the country. His Congress party government in Karnataka has brought the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Bill, 2024 to the assembly to fund the the ATM of DK Shivakumar & Siddaramaiah. This is a new low of appeasement politics. We will oppose this bill,” he said in a video message.

Former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said using funds for any other purpose would constitute violence and fraud. He also questioned why only Hindu temples should be targeted, not other religions.

Yediyurappa also opined that the offerings made to God should be utilised for the development of the temple and for carrying out charity works.

On the flip side, the netizens are expressing their anger over the Congress government calling it “a slap on Hindus by Congress government.”

While others Xed, “Hindus used to pay jizya tax during Aurangzeb rule. Hindus are still paying jizya tax in Congress rule. Nothing changed. Mughal left, Congress.”

Reacting to the allegations, Karnataka Minister Ramalinga Reddy accused the BJP of bringing religion into politics.

He also said that the Congress is the real proponent of Hinduism as it has consistently safeguarded temples and Hindu interests.

“Sri Vijayendra Yediyurappa, it is clear that BJP always pursues political gains by claiming that Congress is anti-Hindu. However, we, the Congress, consider ourselves the true proponents of Hinduism because, over the years, Congress governments have consistently safeguarded temples and Hindu interests,” he said.

He asserted that the people of Karnataka are aware of the BJP’s tactics, and in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, they will likely “teach them a lesson.”

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