With disagreement persisting between a united Opposition and an unyielding government on whether the triple talaq Bill be referred to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha, the contentious Bill looks headed to be put in abeyance.
At 2 pm on Thursday, Opposition members demanded the House resume the unfinished business from the previous day. On Wednesday, the House was adjourned for the day after treasury Benches disagreed with the Opposition's demand to refer the Bill to a select committee.
It wasn't just fence sitters like the Biju Janata Dal and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam that supported the Opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally Telugu Desam Party also demanded that it be sent to a committee. The Opposition was further enthused when it got to know that the Shiv Sena was also unlikely to vote alongside the BJP on the issue.
On Thursday, the government first proposed a discussion on the state of the economy, which was taken up, and listed the Goods and Services Tax (compensation to states) Amendment Bill, 2017, to be taken up subsequently. The government's lead speaker on the GST Bill was to be BJP chief Amit Shah.
The ongoing winter session, which ends on Friday, is Shah's debut session but he couldn't deliver his maiden speech as the Opposition insisted that the House first take up the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, popularly known as the triple talaq Bill. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said the listing of the business was the prerogative of the government. He adjourned the proceedings for the day amid Opposition protests.
Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Opposition supported the Bill but wanted some of its provisions to be amended, particularly the penal provisions. "We will support the Bill in its present shape if the government were to promise to set up a fund for divorced Muslim women during such time that their husbands are in jail," Azad said. He said the Opposition would agree to a resolution from the government's side to refer the Bill to a select committee for legal scrutiny.
Leader of the House Arun Jaitley said the Opposition resolutions to refer the Bill to a committee were not valid. He accused the Opposition of trying to "sabotage the Bill". However, Kurien said the Opposition amendments have been accepted by Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu. There is now only a very slim window for the Bill to be taken up on Friday.
An Opposition member said the government was unlikely to risk sending the Bill to a select committee since Opposition members will be in the majority in the committee. He said the government might keep the Bill in abeyance until April when its numbers will improve significantly in the Rajya Sabha. Currently, the BJP-led NDA has 75 members in a House of 245 and is set to add another 20 in the biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha in April.
"The BJP has been exposed in front of the people. The BJP is not pro-women. The BJP is anti-women and anti-people. It is doing lip service. The BJP was isolated in Parliament. The BJP stalled efforts to improve the Bill," Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien, who had led the demand that the House resume unfinished business from Wednesday, said.
In his daily meeting with leaders of parties this morning, Chairman Naidu appealed to them to improve the image of the House and prevent frequent adjournments.