Unruly scenes unfolded in the Karnataka Legislative Council on Tuesday, with the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party MLCs scuffling over the chairperson’s seat when the anti-cow slaughter bill was to be tabled in the House, India Today reported.

Karnataka’s ruling BJP had called for a no-confidence motion against council chairperson and Congress leader K Prathap Shetty, The News Minute reported. The party was upset after Shetty had adjourned the House on December 10 before the government’s controversial bill could be taken up. The council was expected the take up the motion on Tuesday after the House reconvened.

However, before Shetty arrived in council on Tuesday, the BJP made SL Dharmegowda – the deputy chairperson and a Janata Dal (Secular) leader – take the seat, according to Deccan Chronicle. “We wanted to move the motion,” Karnataka minister KS Eshwarappa said. “Dharmegowda had taken the chair, which meant that the JD(S) would have supported the motion.”

Fearing that the JD(S) leader may back the controversial bill, the Congress leaders protested at the move and forcibly removed Dharmegowda. The party alleged that it was unconstitutional of him to occupy the chair. The BJP members also tried to put back the deputy chairperson on the seat. The marshals had to intervene to defuse the tension.

After Shetty arrived in the House, he adjourned the council sine die. The MLCs from both the parties, however, continued to push and abuse each other as the chairperson left the House.

BJP MLC Lehar Singh Siroya accused the Congress of misbehaving with the deputy chairperson. “We’ve never seen such a shameful day in our council’s history,” he said. “I am feeling ashamed about what the public might be thinking about us.”

Congress MLC Prakash Rathod hit back at the BJP, saying that the saffron party and the JD(S) illegally made Dharmegowda occupy the chair. “It is unfortunate that the BJP is doing such unconstitutional things,” Rathod said. “Congress asked him to get down from the Chair. We had to evict him as it was an illegal sitting.”

The anti-cow slaughter bill

The Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill 2020 was passed in the state Assembly on December 9. After Shetty had adjourned the House on December 10, the BJP had petitioned the governor to reconvene it, saying that important bills need to be passed.

The Congress wants to vote against the anti-cow slaughter bill, while the JD(S) wishes to send the bill to a select committee. The BJP needs the support of JD(S) to pass the bill as the saffron party has only 31 MLCs in the 75-member House, according to the Hindustan Times. The Congress has 29 MLCs, including the chairperson. The JD(S) has 14 members and there is one Independent MLC.

The bill seeks a total ban on the slaughter of cows in the state and stringent punishment to those who indulge in smuggling, illegal transportation, atrocities on cows and slaughtering them. It provides for a jail term of three to seven years and (or) a fine up to Rs 5 lakh.