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The government on Wednesday introduced the 'triple talaq' Bill in the Rajya Sabha, but the proceedings were adjourned for the day before the House could take it for debate as the treasury benches objected to the Opposition's demand that the Bill be referred to a House select committee.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha. Not just some of the fence sitter parties, like the Biju Janata Dal and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, but its ally Telugu Desam Party also supported the Opposition resolution to refer the Bill to a committee. If the Opposition parties maintain unity and persist with their demand on Thursday, the penultimate day of the winter session, it is likely the government is forced to refer the Bill to a House committee.
However, on Wednesday evening, the Opposition as well as the BJP leaders, trooped out of Parliament claiming to have exposed their rivals. If the government accused the Opposition of stalling the Bill to protect their vote banks, Opposition leaders underscored the need to send the "faulty Bill" to the select committee.
Opposition leaders pointed out that BJP members disrupted the proceedings, and not they. The Congress said the BJP was "fooling the people" on the issue. Leader of the House Arun Jaitley termed Congress support to the Bill in the Lok Sabha "mere sham" and that the party was "indirectly opposing" the Bill and had "double standards" on the issue.
Government strategists expressed surprise at Congress' Anand Sharma and Trinamool's Sukehndu Shekhar Roy moving resolutions demanding that the Bill be sent to a committee for wider consultations, and that the report be submitted in the Budget session, which is slated to start at the end of January. Apart from TDP, AIADMK and BJD, the Left parties, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Nationalist Congress Party and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam also supported the resolution.
Jaitley said the resolutions flouted laid down rules that these should be submitted 24-hours in advance. He also pointed to other procedural deficiencies in the resolutions. However, Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien said the resolutions have been admitted following an earlier agreement reached at a meeting of the House's business advisory committee in the presence of Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu.
With BJP chief Amit Shah in the House, party members continued to disrupt the proceedings, and the chair adjourned the House for the day. The government had not anticipated the Congress and Trinamool Congress would lead the rest of the Opposition to insist on a vote on the issue of sending the Bill to a committee, particularly after their approach towards the Bill in the Lok Sabha.
After Trinamool members didn't speak on the Bill and Congress supported it in the Lok Sabha, both parties did course correction when the Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, taking the government by surprise. The Congress has pointed out lacunas in the Bill, and want its penal provisions to be amended.
Earlier in the day, both the Houses were repeatedly disrupted and adjourned over the violence on Dalits in Maharashtra.
In the Rajya Sabha, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) led other Opposition parties to demand a discussion on the issue.
BSP's Satish Chandra Mishra protested at the 'triple talaq' Bill being tabled and Dalit issues ignored. Jaitley retorted that the speeches at the event to mark 200th anniversary of the Anglo-Maratha war in Koregaon-Bhima, in Pune district, were anti-national as they called for break up of India.
In Alipurduar, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the Bill would do more harm than good to Muslim women. "We did not oppose the triple talaq bill (in the Lok Sabha) because we are for women. I know many Muslims who abide by the law. This bill, brought by the BJP government, is a defective one. Instead of protecting the Muslim women, it will cause them harm. The BJP is playing petty politics with the bill," Banerjee said while addressing a meeting.
"What are they giving to Muslim women. They are merely projecting themselves as their 'messiah', but they are in fact only trying to befool the Muslim women," Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
"What happened in the Rajya Sabha was historical. The government created disruptions in the Rajya Sabha. They are not interested in passing the Bill. BJP is playing dirty politics over women, over religion. This is the only way to expose the double standards of BJP," Trinamool leader Derek O'Brien said
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board welcomed the Opposition's stand, and said the Bill in its present shape would have harmful impact on family and society and Muslim women were against the Bill.