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Opposition faces unity test as Rajya Sabha takes up triple talaq Bill today

With the JD(U) having already declared its unhappiness with the Bill, the government will look at some last-minute surprises like it managed in the RTI Bill.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi |
Updated: July 30, 2019 4:57:13 am
If you look visibly like a Muslim, is that reason enough for you to be marginalised or demonised? The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance was first notified on September 19 last year, hours after the Union Cabinet had cleared it. (Image for representational image)

As charges fly thick and fast between Opposition parties over what went wrong with the RTI (Amendment) Bill, their unity will be tested once more on Tuesday when Rajya Sabha takes up the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill, 2019.

With the JD(U) having already declared its unhappiness with the Bill, the government will look at some last-minute surprises like it managed in the RTI Bill. The Opposition, on the other hand, seems to be in disarray following the voting on the RTI (amendment) Bill in Rajya Sabha last week where their unity came undone and the legislation cleared the Upper House hurdle.

There have been no coordination meetings between the Opposition parties since then and the trust deficit is evident with questions being asked about key absences in the House when the RTI Bill was passed. It is, therefore, at an opportune moment that the contentious Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill, 2019 – commonly known as Triple Talaq Bill — has been listed in the Rajya Sabha list of business for Tuesday.

Read | Triple Talaq Bill debte: Opposition alleges divide and rule, govt says justice after 70 years

Some abstentions — like the JD(U)’s in the lower House or some last-minute changes of heart like that of the BJD and the TRS in the RTI Bill is all that the the government needs to make the Triple Talaq Ordinance a law. The fate of the Bill, which seeks to criminalise instant Triple Talaq in Muslims, will essentially hinge on what position three parties take — the JD(U) and TRS with six seats each and the YSR Congress with two.

Explained

Trust deficit in Oppn ranks may help govt

The finger pointing, even in private circles, does not augur well for Opposition unity for the rest of this session and may pave the way for the clearance of several of the seven Bills which the parties had agreed to push for legislative scrutiny. Both the RTI and triple talaq Bills were in that list.

The RTI Bill 2019 was passed in Rajya Sabha Thursday with walkouts and cross-voting that left Opposition parties stumped. Off the record, Opposition leaders questioned the absence of several key MPs on the crucial voting day. Since the voting was held through secret ballot, there is no way to ascertain which way MPs voted. So, everyone is now being put under the lens in Opposition circles even though they are not openly pointing fingers at one another.

Also read | ‘Introducing a law won’t eradicate social evil’: Owaisi opposes triple talaq bill in LS

“There have been no coordination meetings since Thursday. But to be fair, they (government) announced the extension suddenly and many leaders were not aware. Some of them have gone back to their constituencies. But yes, there are misgivings,” said an Opposition MP.

Meanwhile, the Opposition parties which wrote to Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu last week on Bills being passed without scrutiny were not happy with his response on Monday.

Trinamool Congress’s leader in the House, Derek O’Brien, said, “Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is an honourable man. Sadly, his statement this morning in the House we had already read it in the papers yesterday and day before, we are not hearing it for the first time. The letter was not about when somebody became chairman. It was about the fact that 14 bills that have been passed were not scrutinised, Rule 95 was not followed… We have nothing against the chairman, what he said is correct. But we also have to be given an opportunity to reply.”

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