Support for anti-conversion bill in Upper House likely to be tougher for Karnataka BJP
People aware of the developments said that the bill will now be passed in the joint session of the house, though it remains unclear when it will be held or how the party will muster the required numbers, considering that the BJP has far bigger problems with its leadership.
Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai on Saturday said that the decision of not tabling the controversial anti-conversion bill was based on the lack of a clear majority in the upper house of the state legislature.
“It is clear. We don’t have support in the upper house and there were three or four of our legislators who were not present,” Bommai said on Saturday.
The statements come a day after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) decided against tabling the bill, titled The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Act, 2021, in the upper house, delaying a proposed legislation that is key to the saffron outfit’s core ideology to prevent any possible conversion from among the Hindus.
The BJP had rushed through the bill in the lower house despite stiff opposition from the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S).
The bill, which has sent ripples across the minority communities in the state, was discussed for barely a few hours before it was passed with a voice vote over the screaming and sloganeering by the Congress.
While the BJP has a clear majority in the assembly, as it stands, it still has to depend on the JD(S) to make it past the halfway mark of 38 in the 75-seater house.
At least two people aware of the developments said that the bill will now be passed in the joint session of the house, though it remains unclear when it will be held or how the party will muster the required numbers, considering that the BJP has far bigger problems with its leadership.
As it stands, there are 32 BJP members in the house, 29 of the Congress and 12 of the JD(S).
This will change after the newly elected members enter the house with BJP much closer to the halfway mark at 37 after the party won 11 seats in the December 10 MLC polls while the Congress will be at 26. The JD(S) has been reduced to 10. The crucial part will be which way the independent candidate, Lakhan Jarkiholi, will swing.
“We will get the support of Lakhan Jarkiholi since two of his brothers (Balachandra and Ramesh) are legislators in our party,” said one BJP MLC, requesting not to be named.
The vote on this bill could help Ramesh and Balachandra assuage some of the anger within their party, a section of which believes that they put the interests of their family before that of the party’s.
Ramesh believes that he can get Lakhan into the BJP but has revived his earlier demand of being re-inducted into the cabinet.
One brother of the influential and powerful sugar barons, Satish Jarkiholi who is a legislator with the Congress, might also be called in from within his own party to help Lakhan not cast his vote in favour of the BJP.
The JD(S), who’s walking out in “protest” during the anti-cattle slaughter bill, had indirectly helped the BJP in February, has tried to be on neutral ground this time, blaming both national parties for drafting a bill that would impact its voter base or at least does not make any significant improvement to its poll prospects by denting its secular credentials.