The deputy chairman of the Karnataka legislative council was manhandled and dragged off his chair by Congress lawmakers today in chaos that has rarely taken such extreme proportions inside any assembly in the country.
In a shocking video, members of the council are seen surrounding the Chair and Deputy chairperson Dharmegowda of the Janata Dal Secular is physically pulled out of his seat, apparently by Congress members who feared he would back the BJP's demands.
The council's chairperson, K Prathapachandra Shetty of the Congress, later came and adjourned the session.
Karnataka's ruling BJP wants Mr Shetty removed as chairperson. The party had called for a no-confidence motion against Mr Shetty, who had adjourned the house ahead of schedule last week, before the government's controversial bill prescribing tough punishment for cow slaughter could be taken up.
The bill's passing in the other house, the legislative assembly, was also chaotic as the BS Yediyurappa government pushed it through in the absence of the opposition, which walked out in protest. The government had even performed a cow puja in the assembly after tabling the bill.
The winter session of the Karnataka legislature was originally scheduled between December 7 and 15. After it was cut short by the chairman, the state government called for today's one-day session of the council, and the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Bill was widely expected to come up.
In the legislative council, the combined number of the Congress and JDS members is more than the BJP. The opposition parties have made it clear they will not support the government over the cow protection bill. But today, the JDS appeared to be with the government, or so the Congress claimed.
The Congress members erupted in protest when they saw the Deputy Chairperson (a JDS leader) in the Chair instead of the Chairperson.
"As the bell was going on, the Deputy chairperson occupied the chair illegally and unconstitutionally. The Congress asked him to get up. When he did not listen to this we had to forcefully tell him to get down. After that the Chairman came, saw the House was not in order and adjourned it sine die," said Congress member Prakash Rathod.
"The government has murdered democracy and insulted the constitution. They want to run their House as per their whims and fancies getting in controversial laws. Disturbing to see JDS backing them in their bid to change the chairperson. And by backing them, JDS has given up its secular credentials. It is a black day in Karnataka legislature," he said.
The BJP has indicated that the Congress may be isolated on this. The Chief Minister said BJP and JDS members would go together to meet the state Governor.
"The chairman has no moral right to sit in the Chair. That is why we asked the Deputy Chairman to sit. The Chairman should resign. It is a shame for the Congress," Mr Yediyurappa said.
The new cow protection Act - which replaces legislation from 1964 that also prohibited the slaughter of cows - has been red-flagged for both tougher punishments and provisions that many are calling "undemocratic".
The Congress, which says the new bill also hurts the interests of farmers, has accused the BJP of trying to polarise communities by targeting beef and its consumers ahead of local elections to be held later this month. The Janata Dal Secular has also opposed the bill.