With the triple talaq bill stuck in Rajya Sabha, the government may agree to demands for referring it to a select committee subject to the Opposition agreeing to a debate, BJP sources said. The Congress, the Left parties, DMK, BJD, AIADMK and Samajwadi Party have demanded that the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill be sent to a select committee.
Addressing MPs at the BJP parliamentary party meeting, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley reportedly said the government wanted to see the bill criminalising instant triple talaq is debated in the House. MPs present at the meeting said Jaitley termed the Congress’s stand “ideologically confused”.
“We want a debate. Rajya Sabha should debate the bill that was passed by Lok Sabha. Whatever happens next — whether it gets passed or defeated or goes to a select committee — a debate should happen,” one MP quoted Jaitley. To journalists in Parlaiment, Jaitley said: “It has become clear that the Congress party is indirectly opposing the triple talaq bill. It was a mere sham that they gave a statement and supported the bill.”
The BJP asked party MPs to counter “the misinformation” campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party for their initiatives for the Muslim community and “expose” the “double standards” of the Congress and the Left. The BJP strategy is that a debate would “expose” the Congress for supporting the bill in Lok Sabha and allegedly opposing it in Rajya Sabha. Jaitley, sources said, accused the Congress of hypocrisy.
At the last parliamentary party meeting of the winter session, “Jaitleyji explained how the Left and the Congress have double standards on this issue, that they did not have any objection when criminal clauses were allowed to apply in certain offences regarding marriage laws of the Hindu, Christian and Sikh communities. But when triple talaq is criminalised, they are raising their voice against it,” said a source present in the meeting.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar, who quoted Jaitley while speaking to journalists after the meeting, said: “The Congress is showing double standards. It is trying to stall the bill in Rajya Sabha after supporting it in Lok Sabha.”
Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah were present in the meeting, but neither addressed MPs Wednesday.
Before Jaitley, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi also accused the Opposition of spreading “disinformation” about the initiatives taken by the Modi government for minorities. To equip the party MPs with “information” to counter the “disinformation”, Naqvi reportedly said that Saudi Arabia had reduced 25,000 visas during the UPA regime, but Modi held talks with the kingdom to increase the quota by 36,000.
In January 2017, India and Saudi Arabia had signed an agreement in Jeddah to increase the size of India’s Haj quota from 1,36,020 to 1,70,520 — an increase of 34,500, which had been described as the biggest increase in the Haj pilgrim quota since 1988.
Naqvi reiterated that it was the Modi government that lifted the “ban” on Muslim women going for Haj alone. “We have lifted the ban,” Naqvi was quoted saying in the meeting. In 2014, Saudi Arabia changed the rules to allow women above 45 to go for Haj in a group without a Mehram, or male escort.
BJP sources said MPs have been asked to campaign about steps by the government to counter the Opposition’s “attempts to paint the Modi government as anti-Muslim”.
Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot briefed MPs on the bill that proposes constitutional status for the OBC Commission.