Bengaluru: The Congress government in Karnataka is going slow on scrapping the contentious anti-cow slaughter and anti-conversion laws enacted by the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, just days after promising immediate action in this regard, following opposition from mutts of major communities, especially Lingayats and Brahmins.
Many people in the Congress have cautioned Chief Minister Siddaramaiah not to act in haste. Senior Congress leaders say that the party leadership has been asked to do “due diligence” before moving ahead — a euphemism to push the bills to the backburner.
Animal Husbandry Minister K Venkatesh's reply in Upper house
The issue of reviewing these laws has now been passed on to the law department where it is likely to hibernate till the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
What gave a twist to the issue was the reply by Animal Husbandry Minister K Venkatesh in the Upper House stating that there is no proposal before the government to repeal the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020, commonly known as the anti-cow slaughter law.
This is in stark contrast to the initial rhetoric from the Congress government, which promised to repeal the law in a month.
The change in stand was apparently triggered by pontiffs of various mutts, according to sources. The Congress apparently did not want to step on their toes ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. The leadership believed a move to scrap the laws may give the BJP an electoral advantage and dent the prospects of the Congress, according to sources.
The unprecedented move by the pontiffs of Pancha Peetas — the five revered seminaries of Veerashaiva-Lingayat communities — urging the government to drop the proposal to repeal the laws made the Congress even more cautious, especially as these Peetas rarely dabble in politics.
Retain both laws: Brahmin mutts
Later, Brahmin mutts from Dakshina Kannada, headed by the pontiff of Vajradehi Mutt, urged the government to retain both laws. He threatened to launch protests if the government failed to heed the demand.
The Congress is keen to show that it respects the sentiments of the Lingayat community, especially as it won the assembly polls with the support of the community. “It appears the government has backtracked on its proposal to repeal the laws. We will wait and see before formulating a plan of action,” Chenna Siddarama Pandithardahya Shivacharya, the pontiff of Shrishaila Peeta, one of the Pancha Peetas, was quoted as saying in the media.
The government is now keen on amending another vexatious legislation, the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) (Amendment) Act, 2020. The law enacted by the BJP government allows farmers to sell their produce not only at APMC yards but outside as well. The government tabled an amendment bill in the legislature last week, seeking to remove this clause.