December 31, 2018
After comfortably getting passed in the Lok Sabha last week, The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2018, popularly called the triple talaq bill, faces a crucial test of numbers in the Rajya Sabha. The bill, which comfortably sailed through the lower house, may apparently not get easily passed in the upper house as the BJP-led NDA does not enjoy a majority.
But the passage of the bill may not be difficult either as the NDA did manage to defeat the Congress-led Opposition just about four months ago during the election for the deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.
Though the situations now are not as favourable for the NDA as it was on August 9, when NDA-supported Harivansh defeated BK Hariprasad of the Congress in a keenly-fought contest, the Opposition may also find it difficult to get the bill stalled in the Rajya Sabha.
The passage of the triple talaq bill is evenly poised between the treasury and the opposition benches as the ruling NDA does not enjoy a majority in the House.
Before the Rajya Sabha was adjourned by Harivansh today (December 31, 2018) to meet again on January 2, 2019, the Opposition created the first hurdle by moving a motion under Rule 125 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States. Initiated by Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien, 11 opposition parties demanded that the triple talaq bill be sent to a select committee of the House for consideration.
With the AIADMK, having 13 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, choosing to stand against the triple talaq bill, the Opposition has 128 members while the ruling NDA has the support of 97 members.
The resolution has been signed by the Congress, NCP, TDP, RJD, AAP, SP, BSP, DMK, CPI, CPM and the AIADMK.
The numbers were stacked against the NDA during the election of deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha also.
However, in the end, three-term Rajya Sabha member Hariprasad lost even though the BJP had 73 MPs and Congress 50 in the 244-member house.
The BJP fielded Harivansh, a first-time MP of the Janata Dal (United), against Hariprasad. But by the sheer dint of superior floor management, the NDA convincingly trounced the Congress candidate.
The NDA got the support from unlikely quarters, including Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) and the Shiv Sena.
The two MPs of the YSRCP abstained from voting, helping the NDA.
In a house of 244 members, the magic figure for the election in the Rajya Sabha was 123.
However, with eight MPs – including those of the YSRCP, PDP and AAP – abstaining, the magic figure came down to 119.
While Harivansh garnered 125 votes, Hariprasad secured 105 votes.
With the BJP having 73 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, the NDA got the support of 125 MPs.
The stand of these parties and that of the NDA ally Shiv Sena would be closely watched in the triple talaq bill.
The Shiv Sena’s stand is unpredictable. It has been blowing hot and cold on the BJP despite being a part of the Modi government at the Centre and in Maharashtra.
The Shiv Sena went against the “alliance dharma” and, in order to embarrass the BJP, abstained in the No-Confidence Motion debate which took place in the Lok Sabha in July.
However, it voted along with other NDA allies in favour of JDU’s Harivansh.
The triple talaq bill has become a prestige battle for the Congress-led Opposition in the Rajya Sabha after the deputy chairperson’s election.
In a fluid situation, the numbers do not indicate a clear winner. But the BJP has a precedent of winning despite the odds not long ago.