Karnataka state's Health and Education Minister, Dr K Sudhakar, has come under fire after demanding in the state assembly on Wednesday that all 225 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) undergo a "monogamy test".
The lawmakers have called for a Privilege Motion - an action against any lawmaker who abuses his or her position - against Sudhakar as his comments drew intense criticism not only from the opposition Congress party but also members of his own party.
The row erupted after Sudhakar said on Wednesday: "To those behaving as 'maryada purushottams' (morality personified), I am throwing an open challenge. Let there be an investigation into the private life of all 225 MLAs and let it be known who has had relationships or extramarital affairs. Its a matter of morality, right?"
Openly naming opposition leader, S Siddaramaiah, Karnataka Pradesh congress committee president, DK Shivakumar, former speaker, Kandan Ramaiah Ramesh Kumar and Congress MLA, V Muniyappa, Sudhakar said: "They are all 'Satya Harishchandras' (righteous men) and strictly practise monogamy in their life, [don't they]? Let their private lives be investigated".
If @BJP4Karnataka MLAs are ready to accept @mla_sudhakar's statement, Karnataka govt should take legal action against them as per the provisions of IPC sections 494 and 495.— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) March 25, 2021
According to Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, polygamy is illegal.
This evoked sharp reactions from all MLAs with the opposition saying they were ready to face such an inquiry.
Siddaramaiah, Congress leader and former state chief, noted that Sudhakar had specifically mentioned certain names, as well as his own, which constituted a breach of privilege: "The statement amounts to a breach of privilege of lawmakers. He has mentioned several names, including mine, to paint us black. Let the government order an inquiry against all 225 MLAs," he stormed.
Sudhakar's remarks also drew a stern warning from the assembly speaker, Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, who said that nobody should make statements which bring the House and its members into disrepute.
Faced with such intense outrage, Sudhakar has apologised for his statements.
"My words have been misinterpreted and blown out of proportion. I have a high regard for all the legislators and did not intend to hurt," Sudhakar said.
A sex scandal hit the corridors of power in the southern state of Karnataka on 2 March when local TV channels showed video clips suggesting the Water Resources Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi was sexually harassing a woman who was looking for a job. The minister resigned the next day after an uproar over accusations that he was seeking sex in return for preferment.