Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealing to all members of Parliament for a consensus on the triple talaq bill, the Opposition stuck to its stand of ‘conditional support’. The Congress rider came in the form of removal of the ‘criminality clause’ and referral of the Bill to the Standing Committee.
Before the beginning of today’s session, the BJP had its parliamentary board meeting. Coming out of it, senior BJP leader and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said, “The Prime Minister appealed for the Bill to be passed unanimously as it aims to give gender justice, protection and respect.”
However, the appeal was not enough to soften the Congress. With a section of the Opposition already in favour of the Bill, the Congress had a tough challenge on its hands: Stopping the passage of the Bill in its original form.
Congress MPs Mallikarjun Kharge and Sushmita Dev, among many others, advocated that the Bill be amended, all the while clarifying that the party was not opposed to a bill that benefits Muslim women.
“We are with the government and we’re not opposing it. But in the interest of the country, Muslim women, and for the unity and integrity of our nation, it will be better to refer the Bill to the Standing Committee. Give it some time for proper consultation,” Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge suggested during the post-lunch discussion.
A section of Opposition parties rallied behind the Congress in not accepting the Bill in its original form.
While the Left and Shiv Sena have given the Bill a thumbs-up, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Trinamool Congress (TMC), Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) raised a red flag. “This Bill is flawed, there are many internal contradictions in it. We want women to be empowered, but there are lacunae in the Bill,” BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab said in the Lok Sabha during pre-lunch session.
Referring to Supreme Court judgment, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the apex court had in its judgment noted triple talaq as a sin and crime. “All women have Right to Equality. This is a historic day for India. This law is not linked to any religion, it is about the honour of women,” he said.
Putting forth the Congress view, All India Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev presented a detailed argument in the post-lunch session.
The major concern raised by the Congress and its allies was that the three-year of imprisonment of the accused (husband) would prevent the divorced wife and children from getting maintenance allowance.
“Everybody wants social reforms. It is not just an idea, it is a right… It is not just the representation of women, if you would have allowed more women in Parliament, a legislation like this, full of lacunae, wouldn't have seen the light of the day in this House,” Dev said.
“We need this Bill to empower women, but subsistence allowance needs to be ensured. No method has been suggested in the Bill to calculate the allowance. Will the government create a corpus to provide allowance to Muslim women who have undergone talaq?” Dev asked.
An eye on Karnataka Assembly election
The posturing of both parties is believed to be directed at the upcoming Assembly elections. After taking over as the new Congress chief, Rahul Gandhi is using every opportunity to sharpen the skills needed to helm the country's oldest political party, would like to have his way in the passage of the Bill and send out the right message.
Though BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi slammed the Congress and called their stand 'appeasement politics', it can't be ruled out that both the BJP and the Congress have been trying to leverage this Bill while keeping an eye on the 2018 Karnataka Assembly election.
Updated Date: Dec 28, 2017 18:51:34 IST