The BJP government in Karnataka, which had kept everyone guessing on whether it would table the controversial Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, in the Legislative Council, decided against doing so in the winter session that concluded on Friday.
It is expected to be taken up in the next session by which time the BJP’s strength in the Upper House will have gone up. The saffron party currently lacks the numbers to push through the legislation without hurdles. Following the recent elections to the Local Authoriteis’ Constituency, the BJP’s strength would go up to 37 from 32 post January 5 in the 75-member House. Congress’s strength would decline from 29 to 26 and JD(S) from 10 from 12.
On Friday, speculation was intense since the House convened that the Government would table the Bill. As it was the last day of the session, a few members of both the ruling party and the Opposition had left early. The BJP had plans of tabling the Bill and have it passed banking on largescale absenteeism in Opposition benches.
While the Legislative Assembly was adjourned sine die before lunch, the Council was adjourned for lunch to meet at 3 p.m., suggesting that the Government would take up the Bill. Members of both the ruling party and the Opposition were seen making efforts to call back those who had already left. BJP called back Deputy Chairman M.K. Pranesh, among others, while the Congress too was making similar efforts. A few members, who had booked flight tickets, were asked to cancel and stay back.
Even as both parties were engaged in increasing their strength, Leader of the House Kota Srinivasa Poojary met Chairman Basavaraj Horatti in his chamber and sought some more time so that the party members could reach the House, prompting the Chairman to delay convening the House. As the House did not reassemble till 4 p.m., Congress members under the leadership of Leader of the Opposition S.R.Patil met the Chairman and accused the Government of “killing time” to ensure their members returned.
However, when the House met, Mr. Poojary said he wished to convey his regards to all the members whose term would end on January 5. The Opposition benches termed Mr. Poojary’s move only a strategy to gain time. They demanded that the House be adjourned sine die, leading to another round of arguments.
To resolve the issue, Mr. Horatti adjourned the House for five minutes and convened a meeting of floor leaders. In the meeting at the Chairman’s chamber it was decided that the Government would not table the Bill this time. Mr. Poojary conveyed the same when the House reassembled. It would be taken up for debate in the next session, he added.