Finally, the anti-instant triple talaq bill (Muslim women Protection of Rights of marriage bill, 2019) passed in Rajya Sabha by 99-84 votes. No doubt it’s a historic occasion for all those activists and victims who were tortured through the unconstitutional provision of instant triple talaq. I think the argument of why the government is making a social law into a criminal law doesn’t have any merit because an unconstitutional provision (as decreed by Supreme Court) can’t be civil law. And the violation of Constitutional provision itself is a crime. However, in this article, I intend to deliberate about the politics behind the passing of this bill and its possible future repercussions.
Clearly, neither BJP nor NDA got the majority in Rajya Sabha. The controversial RTI bill was passed here due to support of TRS, YSRCP and BJD as expected. However, I had doubts about YRSCP and TRS’s role because of vote bank concerns as mentioned in my previous article. The opposition from NDA ranks such as JDU and AIDMK made me sure that this bill, perhaps wouldn’t be passed this time, and maybe the Narendra Modi government will need a joint Parliamentary session to pass this bill!
But then a miracle happened. Forget about NDA partners, even opposition has helped this bill to be passed through strategic abstaining. I can understand the absence of JDU and AIDMK as they are NDA partners, thus they couldn’t go against the bill. At the same time, they have their vote bank consideration, thus, they abstained.
I can extend this to YSRCP and TRS giving the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t want to annoy the central government for the interest of their state (for bargaining of the better central package or something like that). Without the centre’s generous assistance, no state can progress well and many regional parties succumb to the centre’s dictate. But what happened to parties like BSP, SP, TDP?
Even members of Congress, NCP (Sarad Pawer and Prafulla Patel were among absentees), CPI etc absent? Was it unintentional or there’s some logic? At least 24 opposition members were absent. Congress’s six (including Sanjay Singh who resigned and KTS Tulsi), RJD’s one, NCP’s two, DMK’s one, BSP’s all four, SP’s five, TDP’s all two, TMC’s one, IUML’s one and Kerala Congress’s one. These parties are hardcore anti-BJP and then both Congress and TMC issued whips.
I think there could be two reasons for BJP’s success in passing this crucial bill that was highly objected by the opposition and obstructed twice during the previous Parliament (2017 and 2018).
The first reason could be the realisation among the self-claimed secular lobby. In the 2019 general elections, the BJP openly declared commitment for this triple talaq bill whereas its opponents vociferously opposed it. But the results of the 2019 general election may expose the lacuna of the vote bank politics.
A CSDS survey mentioned that Muslims communities are inclining towards the BJP post-2014. A calculation says that 14% of Muslims voted BJP in UP, 31% in Karnataka, 35% in Rajasthan, 20% in West Bengal and so on. The point is that a section of Muslims have started supporting the BJP, whereas Majority Hindu votes were slipping from parties like SP, BSP, Congress and other self-claimed secular parties because of the image of blatant appeasement to Muslims as part of vote bank politics.
The Congress realised this after the 2014 general election when A.K.Antony committee gave it’s reporting on Congress’s decimation in 2014 citing too much minority appeasement as the reason for Congress’s downfall. In my opinion, that’s why Congress President and others tried to prove themselves as inclined towards the Hindu population, through temple-hopping, but they couldn’t win the trust back because of their stand in matters like triple talaq.
That might be why parties like SP, BSP opposed the criminalisation of the bill but didn’t want to obstruct the bill and invite the wrath from the majority, as well as a section of Muslims. This might be called a realisation of the ground sentiments on vote bank politics. TDP, SP and BSP are perhaps re-strategising their politics not to be seen as playing minority vote bank politics openly because minority vote alone can’t win them the elections. If that happened, then many would be happy. Let there be politics of development and social issues instead of caste and religion-based vote bank politics.
But then another reason can’t have been ruled out. The BJP became politically very strong by winning with a larger mandate in the 2019 general election. With a dwindling and rudderless Congress, people in the Opposition may have felt that they had no option other than to side with the BJP. Many members of the opposition already joined the BJP by resigning from RS and many may be ready to jump to BJP through some bargaining. Also, the BJP could have managed the majority through some coercive methods with the regional parties who, I believe, maintained selective abstaining so as to pass the bill.
If the first reason behind the passing of triple talaq bill is valid, then I think it’s good for our democracy. If the opposition is sensible with the issues of the country and doesn’t oppose just for sake of opposition, then it would be called constructive opposition (although open support to such bills is a better option) which is beneficial in addressing many urgent issues of the country.
But if the second reason is valid, then I think we are entering into a dangerous era where ruling party will do a monopoly which is against the spirit of democracy. I believe the Triple talaq bill was a necessity. In the coming times, many are also hopeful of abrogation of article 370 and article 35-A because of Narendra Modi’s strong intent to fulfil his commitment towards his promises. But then, like dilution of RTI bill, there could be many such bills which would be beneficial for absolute power to the Narendra Modi government but bad for all the people.
I wish the first reason to be valid but I have sufficient reason to be afraid of the second reason. Do you also think so?