The passing of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, in the Rajya Sabha has established the Narendra Modi-led BJP dispensation’s floor management prowess. Making parties in the NDA like the JD(U) and AIADMK, which were uncomfortable with certain provisions of the legislation, abstain from voting, allegedly keeping many opposition MPs away from the Upper House and, most importantly, making the Congress feel embarrassed about opposing the Bill, together make a classic example of Modi’s politics. With the passage of this Bill goes the excuse that the reforms and measures that the core voters of the BJP want cannot be executed for the lack of adequate numbers in the Rajya Sabha. Of course, if the Supreme Court issues an adverse verdict on the coveted Ram temple in Ayodhya and the government brings in legislation to pave its way, the opposition to such a Bill will be fiercer driving a wedge in the NDA. However, there are demands of the Hindu community that no society or community would have reason enough to oppose: freeing the temples of state control, for instance. The successful passage of the anti-triple talaq Bill gives the middle class added ammunition to target the government, asking why the market is not being freed up, why taxpayers’ money is funding sick PSUs (now by way of strategic sales to healthier PSUs) and reconstructing assets of banks that did not follow standard banking norms, which led to the bad loan crisis.
But today is a day of emancipation of Muslim women in India. Those who are married will no longer be on tenterhooks, with the whims of their husbands deciding their fates. Muslim girls who are in the phase of match-making or are about to get married can expect a more secure life. The probability of the inhuman, disgusting custom of halala — wherein a divorced woman needs to get married and divorced by another man to return to the first husband — would reduce, too. For, instant triple talaq is a decision the husband could find was wrong, taken at the spur of a moment, an action he might like to make amends for but could not until yesterday, as the Islamic provision would practically make him share his spouse with another man before her formal return. Most halala efforts expectedly never succeeded, as the first husband refused to take the woman back into his life after she spent a brief yet conjugal life with another man, forcing her to despondency, suicide or prostitution. To that extent, the new Muslim law is good for the men of the faith, too.
The argument by the opposition that the punishment to the offender the law provides for was unwarranted was specious. If one does not wish to violate a law, why should he be scared of the consequences of the violation? Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress contending that this was the BJP’s ploy of breaking Muslim households is hilarious. Arguably for the first time, someone has held that easy divorce is better in keeping families intact than averting a breakdown of a marriage. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad rightly countered Azad by saying it was such bogus logic furthered by the Congress in the name of protecting rights of the Muslim population that the oldest party of the country could never regain a majority in both the Houses of Parliament since the historic high of 1984 and then its decline post-Shah Bano case.
The zeal of the Modi government to see this Bill through cannot but escape the accusation of fishing for votes outside the saffron party’s core bases of RSS swayamsevaks and the middle class. To the clusters of the electorate like the freeloaders got added a chunk of votes of Muslim women today. Or, they had switched to the BJP way back during the Uttar Pradesh election when both Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav had wondered how the BJP won seats that had an absolute majority of the Muslim population. Pro-Muslim, pretentiously secular parties will still claim not a single Muslim citizen votes for the BJP while Modi would characteristically assume a moral high ground by surmising that not everything he does has winning elections as the motive. But any percentage of votes from the community will remain a bonus for the ruling party and, thus, the allegation of fishing expedition sticks. Since it does, the dedicated voters of the BJP must now ask how long their dedication would be taken for granted, and pressure the government to accept their demands.