In the end, the paradox was telling. On one hand, the Congress, viewed as pro-Muslim, opposed the Triple Talaq Bill in its present form. On the other, the right-wing Hindutva BJP claimed to be a messiah for Muslim empowerment.
The Congress and the entire Opposition cut a sorry figure live on TV, during a heated debate on the Triple Talaq Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
It appeared that the Opposition had walked into a neat trap set by the government.
First came the proposal that a decision be taken in the Business Advisory Committee of the Rajya Sabha, with Chairperson Venkiah Naidu.
The government gave an assurance that the sense of the House would be taken, and if all parties felt the bill should go to a Select Committee, that would be done.
On Wednesday, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma moved a proposal. And what followed was a slanging match between the Treasury and Opposition benches.
There were no takers for pleas by Anand Sharma, or Derek O’ Brien of the Trinamool Congress. It was clear that the BJP had won the day.
‘BJP ONLY PARTY WITH MUSLIMS’ WELFARE AT HEART’
“The Congress stands exposed. The people of this country know that the only party that has the welfare of Muslims at heart is the BJP,” said Railway Minister Piyush Goel.
The government had come prepared. In fact, the minister of state for parliamentary affairs even lined up over 50 burqa-clad women, mostly from the minority cell of the BJP, to witness the proposed passage of the Bill.
The women, mainly from Goel’s erstwhile Chandni Chowk constituency, completed the picture of a party which, like Goel said, had Muslim empowerment at heart.
The finer points – that most legislation in the NDA regime hasn’t been undergoing parliamentary scrutiny under Select or Standing Committees, and that Bills prepared by bureaucrats are becoming legislation – were lost.
The fact that there could be legal lacunae in the Bill was also lost.
Experts like lawyer Indira Jaising even questioned the very necessity of the Bill.
“A declaration that triple talaq is void restores her (the wife) to the status of a wife, where is the need to make it a crime except for being vindictive. What protection does that give a wife?” She tweeted.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley claimed that one of the many reasons for bringing the Bill now was that t when triple talaq was declared unconstitutional, two of the judges said Parliament should come up with appropriate legislation within six months.
That deadline expires on February 22. “So, there is an urgency that the country expects from Parliament. Legislature must act with sense of responsibility,” Jaitley said.
Former Union Minister Kapil Sibal, who was lawyer for AIMPLB in the Supreme Court on the triple talaq issue, countered Jaitley. But his remarks were lost in the din in the Rajya Sabha.
“The courts ruled that if Parliament introduces a legislation within the six month period, then the injuction will continue till the Bill is passed. So what Mr Jaitley is saying misleading because the injunction doesn’t end on February 22″ Sibal said.
“Anyway, since the majority judgement had already declared triple talaq as void, what a minority judgemnet says has no bearing,” he added.
Now, with 48 hours to go before the session ends, the Opposition hasn’t indicated whether it will recalibrate its strategy, or allow the BJP to win the rhetoric…and the bill.
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