A draft of the Bill was prepared when Siddaramaiah was Chief Minister. While the BJP blames the Congress, the Congress claims permission was given prior to Siddaramaiah's regime.

A collage of Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and Congress leader Siddaramaiah
news Politics Friday, December 24, 2021 - 09:31

The ruling BJP in Karnataka in the Assembly on Thursday, December 23, said that the new anti-conversion Bill tabled in the Karnataka Assembly is a ‘mere extension’ of the draft proposal which was prepared by the state Law Committee when the Congress was in power way back in 2016. The Congress, which had aimed to corner the BJP on the controversial Bill, found itself on the backfoot in the assembly, when the BJP blamed the Congress for bringing the first draft. After the session, Karnataka Leader of opposition Siddaramaiah, who was the CM at the time, said in defence that while an initial draft was made due to a demand raised by RSS members in 2009, however the Bill was never cleared by the Cabinet.

Minister for Home, Araga Jnanedra in his opening remarks on the bill said that the Anti-conversion bill is the brainchild of the Congress. Further, Minister for Law, J Madhuswamy said that the draft was prepared by the Law Commission as per the directions of the then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

He further said that Siddaramaiah, as the then Chief Minister, had ordered the preparation of the draft proposal on prevention of forceful conversions. Stunned, Siddaramaiah refuted this and challenged the BJP to prove its claims.

Speaker Vishveshwara Hegde Kageri then read out his notes from the old file and asked him to verify it by himself at his office and adjourned the session briefly.

When the house resumed, Siddaramaiah, after verifying the notes, agreed that the notes were made during his time and tried to defend his position by saying that though he directed for the draft, it never came up before the cabinet and it was never considered till the end of his tenure.

In a Twitter thread later in the night, Siddaramaiah called the Karnataka Protection of Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, the ‘brainchild of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), saying that RSS followers had written a petition in 2009 to the law commission to draft anti-conversion bill when BS Yediyurappa was the Chief Minister.

“The then Social Welfare minister H Anjaneya had written a note on the draft, which was forwarded by the law commission, that it is not needed to discuss in the cabinet. It was never discussed during @INCKarnataka govt. The words & the phrases used in Karnataka draft anti-conversion bill is same as that of the bill passed in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. It is clear that RSS is behind this,” Siddaramaiah said on Twitter.

A senior Congress leader TNM spoke to said that the draft of a 2 page bill with 8 clauses was prepared by the Law Commission a few years after it was cleared by Yediyurappa.

"This draft has done some rounds in the government. But when it came to Anjaneya, he signed not needed and returned it. However, we did not have our facts in hand and were caught on the wrong foot in the assembly," he said.

Earlier, in the Assembly Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said that the anti-conversion law is “necessary to tame those elements who take advantage of the poverty of the people.”

"Eradicating poverty and helping the poor is different. But, there are elements who take advantage of these things and carry out their agenda of religious conversions. We have seen how people belonging to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe are lured and converted stage by stage," he said.

Siddaramaiah asked Bommai not to be emotional on the issue. Bommai stood up and replied that he is emotional and he wanted Siddaramaiah also to be emotional.

Former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy chided Siddaramaiah that he has no morality to speak on the issue of the anti-conversion Bill. "In fact, he had provided the draft to the BJP and posed himself as an icon of secularism,” Kumaraswamy said.

Read: Anti-conversion Bill passed in the Karnataka Assembly: What happens next?