New Delhi, Jan 6: It's rare to see the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress on the same page on any issue.
However, once in a while it does happen to the utter astonishment of all. Recently, we saw the Congress and the BJP condemning Pakistan together for ill-treating mother and wife of Indian citizen Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is facing death sentence in the neighbouring country for alleged spying.
Again recently, the Congress voted in support of the triple talaq bill in the Lok Sabha, like the BJP.
Anyway, the bill would have passed in the Lower House of Parliament without the Congress' support as the BJP enjoys a majority in the Lok Sabha. Earlier, in the Lok Sabha the Congress said it was in favour of the bill and urged the government to refer it to the standing committee so its flaws can be rectified.
"We can sit together and sort out in a time-bound manner," said Leader of the party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge.
Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who had tabled the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, welcomed Kharge's statement and said the government would listen to the opposition party's suggestions and incorporate them in the law. "I thank Kharge ji for supporting the government," Prasad said.
However, things took a turn when the Congress and other opposition parties vehemently opposed the bill in the Rajya Sabha because of which the BJP failed to pass it in the Winter Session of Parliament which ended on Friday. The Opposition is mostly protesting against the criminalisation of triple talaq.
In the Rajya Sabha, the BJP does not enjoy a majority and thus need the support of the opposition parties for the passage of any bill. Now, the BJP wants to know why the Congress had two different stands on the bill in Parliament.
"The Congress should just answer why it supported the triple talaq bill in the Lok Sabha and opposed it in the Rajya Sabha," the Union law minister told ANI.
Prasad on Friday accused the Congress of pursuing vote bank politics and not gender justice, saying it has followed the same politics from Shah Bano case in 1986 to that of Shayara Bano in 2017.
The senior BJP leader said the Congress could have made its suggestions on the bill in Parliament during a debate but it saw to this that no meaningful debate occur as it was driven by vote bank politics.
The Congress needs to explain why it took one stand in the Lok Sabha and another in the Rajya Sabha as it "fully supported" the bill in the former and did not press even for division on amendments, he said.
"The Congress has followed the same politics from Shah Bano in 1986 to Shayara Bano in 2017. We were open for discussion and keen that debate must happen in Parliament. Let the whole country see the Congress' behaviour," he told PTI.
To the demand of the Congress that the bill be sent to a select committee, Prasad said the committee was designed to make it ineffective.
Hundreds of instant triple talaq have happened even after the Supreme Court order, he said, adding that it happened even today. "The Congress wanted to decriminalise it (instant triple talaq). It is continuing unabated despite the Supreme Court order and we need to have a special deterrence," he said.
The government wanted a debate but the Congress interrupted him even when he was making initial observations while introducing the bill, he said.
Prasad attacked the Congress after it held the BJP responsible for the impasse in the Rajya Sabha, accusing the ruling party of trying to use Parliament as a "rubber stamp". Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad claimed that ministers stalled proceedings, leading to an impasse for three days.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar, however, asserted that the government was committed to the bill, which seeks up to three years of imprisonment for Muslim men convicted of instant triple talaq. The government will press for its passage in the Budget Session starting from January 29.
Now, it needs to be seen whether the BJP will be able to convince the Congress to pass the bill in the upcoming session of Parliament. Or will it be stalled again in the Budget Session too? That means the BJP will be able to pass the bill once the party gets majority in the Rajya Sabha too, which is likely to happen soon.