Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah hands over the controversial watch to Assembly Speaker

Bengaluru :Mired in a controversy over a luxury watch gifted to him, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah today handed it over to the Speaker amid uproar in the state Assembly, declaring it a state asset.

As the Assembly was rocked by the controversy for the second consecutive day, an angry Siddaramaiah gave the watch and a letter to Speaker Kagodu Thimappa as BJP and JDS members continued to stage a dharna in the well of the House.

Siddaramaiah’s dramatic gesture came when the House reassembled after two adjournments with BJP and JDS persisting with their demand for a discussion on the issue.

The Chief Minister said in the letter to the Speaker, who read it out, that he had paid “advance tax” for the watch.

“I, being the Chief Minister of Karnataka, by following the precedents set by my predecessors in Office, declare that the gifted watch HUBLOT BIG BANG.301-M as government asset…,” Siddaramaiah said.

He requested the Speaker to forward the watch to the Chief Secretary to place it in the Cabinet Hall at Vidhana Soudha, the state secretariat, today.

“I, being a law abiding citizen, have paid the tax on the said gifted watch as advance tax on this day of 2nd March 2016,” the letter said.

He said the pre-owned “HUBLOT BIG BANG-301-M” wrist watch was presented to him by his Dubai-based NRI friend Dr Girish Chandra Varma in July last at Bengaluru as a personal gift.

Siddaramiah also said Varma has no official dealings with Government of Karnataka or its organisations.

Opposition BJP leader Jagadish Shettar dismissed Siddaramaiah’s action as “high drama” and said he was doing so thinking that the controversy would end.

A high-level probe by a central agency should be conducted, he said.

The Chief Minister is in the eye of a storm over the diamond-studded watch.

As controversy erupted, he declared last week that the watch, claimed to be worth Rs 70 lakh, would be declared as state asset and handed over to the government.

As the Assembly met for the day, BJP members entered the well of the House and demanded that a discussion on the issue be allowed and Speaker should reconsider his decision on not allowing an adjournment motion on the issue.

However, Thimmappa, who yesterday rejected BJP’s appeal to allow adjournment motion, stuck to his decision.

Following this, BJP continued its protest, stating that affidavit, documents and receipt relating to the watch had to be made public by Verma, who is said to have gifted it.

As both opposition and treasury benches were involved in war of words, the House was adjourned by the Speaker who called the floor leaders for a meeting.

When the House reassembled, opposition members again entered the well and demanded a discussion.

Amidst sloganeering and protest by opposition, the Speaker even allowed introduction and passage of Karnataka Legislature Salaries, Pension and Allowances (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015, aimed at making provision to provide family pension to family members of the member deceased before December 26, 1978 operative from February 22, 2014.

As the protest continued, the Speaker once gain adjourned the House till afternoon.