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Why the Triple Talaq Bill didn't go the way BJP wanted

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 6 January 2018, 17:43 IST
(Arya Sharma)

With the Union government's Triple Talaq Bill neither getting passed nor making it to a Parliamentary committee, it appears that the government's game-plan has been thwarted.

There is a clever sub-text to the triple talaq debate. What appears on the surface is a BJP push to outlaw the practice to appear a well-wisher of Muslim women and Muslim society at large. However, behind the scenes is a plan to send out a message to the BJP's core constituency that the project to “discipline” the Muslim community has begun.

When the BJP had announced its intention to bring a law to ban instant triple talaq early in December, it was widely believed that there was a strategy behind it. If the Bill gets Opposition support and clears the Parliament, the government will directly succeed in its objective.

If the Opposition blocks it, then the government will use the opportunity to malign the Congress and other Opposition parties as pseudo-seculars and as the real enemies of Muslim women.

However, what happened in the Rajya Sabha in the last two days of the winter session essentially conveyed that a spanner had been thrown in the BJP's plans.

Who threw a spanner in BJP's plans?

The Bill cleared the Lok Sabha thanks to the BJP's brute majority in that House. However, Rajya Sabha proved to be an entirely different game altogether as things didn't go as per the BJP's plan. The Congress and other Opposition parties received a shot in the arm with the support of at least three fence-sitters who have sympathised with the government in the past – DMK, AIADMK and TDP .

With these three parties in, the Opposition numbers grew and so did the pressure on the government to send the Bill to a parliamentary committee. Refusing steadfast to buckle under that pressure, the government allowed, instead, the Bill to pass into limbo.

So, who wins?

The battle over triple talaq is likely to continue in 2018, but for now it is the Opposition that seems to have scored a point. The government has been prevented from getting the Bill passed by Parliament and the BJP has been forced to complain of sabotage.

What is hard to understand is that why did the government not concede to the demand of the Opposition for subjecting the Bill to deeper parliamentary scrutiny. What was the harm in sending it to a committee? Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said in an interview that that demand was a “ruse to sabotage” and the Bill isn't so “complicated” that it would merit so much scrutiny.

Well-known political analyst Professor Balveer Arora told Catch the government feared that if the Bill would go to a parliamentary committee, it will be forced to undergo changes. That, in turn, will dent the image that the BJP wants to project for itself that the party doesn't compromise on such issues.

Arora said he suspects that the BJP will now wave the Bill around as proof of its intentions, while claiming helplessness, at the same time, because of the Opposition's stronger numbers in the Upper House. Arora was also of the opinion that the Bill was just one of all the cards that the BJP will start stacking up from now, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls of 2019.

The Congress has explained at various platforms that the draft of the Bill is flawed and it must be corrected. Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala has already flagged the problems – the Bill essentially puts the onus on the Muslim women to suffer the cost and consequences of litigation and does not define “subsistence allowance”. The hesitation of the government “to put in a single line definition” will need to heavy litigation later (http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/this-is-no-reform-triple-talaq-bill-muslim-law-winter-session-5009174/).

National spokesperson of Rashtriya Janata Dal, Manoj Jha, also spoke to Catch and he said this Bill and what happened in the Parliament was a clear case of the BJP's dog-whistle politics that “one should appear doing something, without real intent”. He stressed that this was a far-reaching legislation and should be passed after widest possible consultation.

Another Opposition leader said, on condition of anonymity, he believed that the government will take another shot at reviving the Bill in the Budget session and may surrender to the demand for committee scrutiny if it fails to clear the Rajya Sabha again.

First published: 6 January 2018, 17:43 IST
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.