Triple Talaq Bill a Political Gimmick for BJP Ahead of 2019 Polls
The BJP came a cropper in its bid to hustle the contentious Triple Talaq bill into law during the winter session of Parliament. All parties in the Rajya Sabha, barring its ‘Hindu’ twin, Shiv Sena, ganged up to block the passage of the proposed legislation without scrutiny by a select committee to address concerns arising from the criminalisation of a social problem peculiar to the Muslim community. The bill now hangs in limbo until Parliament meets again for the budget session.
BJP Left in the Lurch
Its failure to ram through a bill tom-tommed as a showpiece, is not the only setback for the BJP. Equally worrying would be the desertion by a significant ally, TDP and two friendly parties, BJD and AIADMK, who have always bailed out the government when it’s been under attack from the Congress-led Opposition in the Upper House.
Another ally, Akali Dal, sat on the fence. It did not support the opposition parties on the issue but neither did it lend a helping hand to the ruling dispensation. In the end, the BJP stood in a majestic isolation with only Shiv Sena for company.
Coming on the heels of a near defeat in the just concluded Gujarat assembly polls and with just a little over a year left for the next general election, the drama in the Rajya Sabha should serve as a wake-up call for the BJP.
As long as it was dressed up as development, it was fine. But after the intensely polarising election campaign in Gujarat in which Modi once again played the Hindu hriday samrat, BJP-friendly parties seem worried that they are being sucked into an agenda that is not theirs and about which they have serious reservations.
Triple Talaq Bill – A Political Pawn for BJP
The BJP’s desperation to hurry the Triple Talaq Bill only reinforced the charge that this was a political gambit, not a serious well-considered move to protect and empower Muslim women. The party certainly worked overtime to lobby for support.
First, it got one of the five petitioners in the triple talaq case, Ishrat Jahan, to join the party in Kolkata. Next, Ishrat Jahan’s lawyer, Nazia Khan, was welcomed into the BJP fold.
The ruling party’s majority in the Lok Sabha ensured that the bill was passed in one day.
Khan appeared in the corridors of Parliament after years and many were surprised to see him making his entry. It was only after he began impassioned lobbying for the bill that political circles put two and two together. Khan is known for the strong stand he took in favour of the Shah Bano judgement granting alimony to divorced Muslim women.
He was later sidelined by his own party, the Congress, after the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi caved in to pressure from Muslim clerics and fundamentalists and legislated the controversial Muslim women’s bill that overturned the Shah Bano judgement and reasserted the supremacy of Muslim personal law.
Emotions Run High as 2019 Nears
For two days, Khan argued with fervour, in favour of the bill but proved unsuccessful. Political parties have their own compulsions and except Shiv Sena, none rely on a Hindutva vote to win elections.
While the BJP is pressing the argument of the Congress party’s “double standards,’’ the opposition is trying to expose the duplicity of using the triple talaq issue to drive a wedge within the Muslim community and between Muslims and Hindus.
Emotions will only run higher as the countdown to 2019 proceeds. The stakes are soaring as all parties gird up for what will be a hard fought bitter battle to capture the hearts and minds of voters.
(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)