The Triple Talaq Bill was an easy sail in the Rajya Sabha not because of the BJP’s skills but Opp disunity
First things first. Now that the Triple Talaq Bill is law, an archaic practice of oath-based separation, which anyway had little use in the modern context, has been done away with and at least empowered the lesser privileged and backward Muslim women. It further allows Muslim women to go through a legal process of reconciliation without the Nikaah Halala or the practice of marrying another man before seeking to remarry the old husband, mainstreaming them with not only the rest of India but many Islamic nations as well. Of course, there is the niggling issue of criminalising the errant husband, some saying a jail term would mean a sudden economic crunch as maintenance for the affected woman, but the Bill proposes some filters against the exploitative potential, which need to be reviewed on the ground. In the end, the implementation will throw up fresh challenges. But the short-term optics have been done. However, the bigger story is its political dimension. The ruling BJP has managed to pull off a pro-minority women stance and position itself as a progressive counterpoint to the Congress which failed to do so in the Shah Bano case, choosing to yield to the normative compulsions of the day. The triple talaq law would now become a revolutionary marker for the Modi 2.0’s “New India” narrative, clearly lending an edge to its competitive propaganda as a performing government. The bill passage also bears testimony to the NDA’s aggressive floor management skills and transactional politics in the hostile Rajya Sabha although the numbers are stacked against it. Many BJP leaders, in fact, had quite reconciled themselves to the idea of a gradual increase in the ranks of the Upper House through newly-elected members over the next two years. Post the mammoth Lok Sabha verdict, it was anyway expected that while the BJP could have its way in the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha would act as the nation’s moral conscience and be its speed breaker. Analysts had even thought the ruling party wouldn’t be gung-ho about aggressive legislations till it was sure of the numbers. But the way it ensured the passage of the RTI and Triple Talaq Bills by winning over fence-sitters like Biju Janata Dal, AIADMK and YSR Congress, engineering abstentions and soothing anxieties of non-Congress Opposition parties over the interpretation of various clauses shows that the Opposition is just now a notional requirement in the House. That it stands completely defanged by its self-imposed irrelevance, unpreparedness, worse willing acceptance of brute force. In such an environment, more controversial legislations may be steamrolled, amendments to Article 370 and 35A, sooner rather than later. All MPs know that abstaining only helps the ruling regime as missing members would only bring down the total strength, particularly Opposition numbers. They would have proved their point by opting to vote “no” instead. So, clearly the integrity of the vote has also been compromised, though a few, like the NDA ally Janata Dal-United (JD-U) claimed a fake show of conscientiousness by the act of walking out.
How else does one explain that the Congress, despite a whip, saw its benches empty at the time of voting? At least four party MPs were missing, and in the season of migratory birds, a headless Congress seemed unable to gather its flock. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) threw up a big surprise when, despite its very public stand against the Bill, its MPs chose to stay away, bailing out the government. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)’s Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel were missing too. For Pawar, who is on the verge of losing the national party tag and is torn by dissension and fleeing members, political survival in the Maharashtra Assembly polls is more important than a piece of legislation. The next big surprise came from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), whose members did not vote, an indication that Mayawati is back to prioritising her own gains over stated positions on the Bill. Some MPs of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Samajwadi Party, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MPs and one member from the Trinamool Congress too, stayed away. The Opposition, before accusing the BJP of “dog whistle politics”, should introspect why it couldn’t stand up and be counted or make a case for a law against all abandoned wives irrespective of religion?
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer