The Karnataka Legislative Council witnessed unprecedented scenes of unruly behaviour by both BJP and Congress members on Tuesday, as the BJP resumed its efforts to depose the chairman in order to wrest control of the 75-member Upper House from the Congress.
While BJP legislators locked the Council doors to prevent the chairman, Prathapchandra Shetty (Congress), from entering the House to conduct proceedings when the Council re-convened on Tuesday morning, Congress legislators forcibly unseated the deputy chairman, S L Dharmegowda of the JD(S), after he was ushered to the chairman’s seat by BJP members.
At the centre of the row is a differential understanding of the process of conducting a no-confidence motion against the chairman of the Council. The BJP has contended that the chairman cannot conduct proceedings of the House when a no-confidence notice has been issued against him, while the Congress has argued that the chairman remains the supreme authority of the House unless the motion of no-confidence is accepted for debate or the chairman delegates his powers to the deputy chairman.
At the end of a four-day winter session of the legislature on December 10, Shetty had rejected a BJP notice for a no-confidence motion against him on the grounds that it was not in order and that sufficient reasons had not been cited for it to be taken up. The BJP had then approached the Governor and sought his intervention for reconvening the House.
On Tuesday, when the Council met – expressly to take up the no-confidence issue against the chairman and to pass the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, 2020 which was cleared by the Assembly last week – Shetty remained the chairman.
But, ahead of the start of the session, the JD(S) which has14 members in the House – the BJP has 31, Congress 29 (including the chairman), and one Independent – had in a media statement expressed support for the BJP’s bid to depose Shetty, who was elected when the Congress-JD(S) combine was in power.
While the bell for the start of Council proceedings was still ringing and the chairman’s arrival was awaited, the doors of the Council were closed by a few BJP MLCs, and Dharmegowda was ushered to the chairman’s seat by BJP members in order to take up the no-confidence motion against Shetty.
A few Congress legislators then tried to force the door of the Council open to allow Shetty to enter, while others forced the deputy chairman out of the chairman’s seat, even as BJP and JD(S) MLCs tried to ensure that Dharmegowda remained in the chair.
After evicting the deputy chairman, the Congress legislators planted their own MLC, Chandrashekhar Patil, in the chairman’s seat until the marshalls of the Council took charge of the chair and allowed Shetty to enter the House and chair the proceedings. Shetty then ordered indefinite adjournment of the House.
In its no-confidence notice against Shetty, the BJP had cited alleged non-cooperation in passing key Bills during the monsoon session. Shetty has pointed out that he facilitated the passage of 37 of 40 Bills tabled by the government – a labour Bill was defeated by the Opposition, while two farm-related Bills were not taken up due to lack of time.
After the House was adjourned following the ruckus on Tuesday, 11 JD(S) members gave letters to the secretary of the Council, backing the BJP’s no-confidence move against Shetty.
The ruckus in the House triggered a war of words between the BJP and Congress. “We said yesterday that the deputy chairman will chair the House. When the deputy chairman is seated and the no-confidence is presented, then he can continue if the numbers are not in favor of the chairman. The question is whether the Congress has majority? Other things are not important,” Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said.
“The way the deputy chairman was manhandled has not happened in the past in the country. This shows the Congress culture. They must ask their chairman to resign immediately. We will approach the Governor unitedly. The whole world has seen what happened,” he said. “Once the chairman knew that he does not have majority, he should have stepped down. Once he learnt that the JD(S) favours the BJP, the Congress should have got him to resign,” Yediyurappa said.
“While the bell was ringing and the chairman was still in his room, the BJP locked the entrance to the Council to prevent his entry. What kind of people are they? What kind of democracy must we call this? Should we call this the democracy flowing from the Constitution authored by Dr Ambedkar or the democracy authored by Narendra Modi. Is it constitutional democracy,” Congress leader Siddaramaiah said.
“No process as defined in the rules has been completed for the no-confidence to be taken up for debate. The notice itself has already been rejected. The allegation brought against the chairman is that he has been partisan in his actions – what is the evidence. There is no evidence attached. The resolution has not been attached – they have only given a letter,” Siddaramaiah said.
In a memorandum to Governor Vajubhai Vala, the BJP has said the Council chairman’s “communication that the no-confidence motion does not make any specific charges is illegal”.
The BJP said Congress members Narayana Swamy, Nazeer Ahmed and others assaulted the deputy chairman and removed him from the chair. “They have brought great disrespect and disgrace to the reputation of the Karnataka Legislative Council,” the BJP MLCs said, while asking the Governor “to direct the chairman of the Council to convene the House forthwith” under the leadership of the deputy chairman.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines