What the BJP has now in Rajya Sabha is a strategy. And what the opposition does not have in Rajya Sabha is unity.
The triple talaq bill was finally passed in Rajya Sabha. The ruling govt was able to secure a majority for the bill in the upper house. as many as 99 MPs voted in favour of the bill. Whereas 84 voted against it. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill will now go to President Ram Nath Kovind for his assent.
Once the triple talaq bill gets the assent of the President and notified by the government, it will replace the triple talaq ordinance promulgated in February. The triple talaq bill has been a bone of contention between the Narendra Modi government and the Opposition since December 2017, when the government first tabled the legislation in the Lok Sabha.
In the previous term of the Modi government, it was passed in the Lok Sabha but could not pass through the Rajya Sabha. In this term, the government re-introduced the bill. It did pass it through Lok Sabha where BJP enjoys a brute majority. A majority number which is bigger than the previous term. Rajya Sabha was a challenge where the BJP does not have an upper hand. But yesterday, after four hours of debate, the bill had a smooth passage.
This is the first parliament session of the Modi government 2.0 and the Modi govt has been successful in breaking the curse of Rajya Sabha. The BJP was able to push two important bills through Rajya Sabha which is a big feat considering for the last five year they faced a major hurdle.
For the opposition, of course, Rajya Sabha was its own citadel. A castle BJP could not enter. In 2014, BJP won 282 seats, an absolute majority on its own. The largest opposition party Congress-won only 44 seats. The Congress had also lost several important state assembly elections, but Rajya Sabha was the only place where BJP still did not have a dominance. It still does not have it. But what it has now for Rajya Sabha is a strategy. And what the opposition does not have in Rajya Sabha is unity.
This was very much evident during the vote on triple talaq bill on Tuesday. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that in fact, it was the opposition parties who helped BJP achieve the number.
How did the BJP pull it off in Rajya Sabha?
The Rajya Sabha has 245-members. NDA’s strength in the Rajya Sabha is 113.
BJP (78), AIADMK (11), JD(U) (6), Shiv Sena (3), Shiromani Akali Dal (3) and Independents plus Nominated members (12).
On the other hand, Congress (47), Asom Gana Parishad (AGP ) 1, TMC (13), BJD (7), Bodoland People’s Front (BPF )1, Communist Party of India (CPI ) 1, Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M) )5, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK )5, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML )1, J&K Peoples Democratic Party (J&K PDP )2, Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S) )1, Kerala Congress (M) (KC(M) )1, Lok Janasakti Party (LJP )1, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK )1, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP )4, Naga Peoples Front (NPF )1
Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK )1
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD )5
Republican Party of India (A) (RPI(A) )1
Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF )1
Samajwadi Party (SP )12
Telugu Desam Party (TDP )2
Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS )6
The total strength of non-BJP parties is 125.
Since the four positions are vacant, the majority mark in Rajya Sabha came down to 121.
So the BJP needed a total of 121 votes in support of the bill to pass it.
Obviously, the non-BJP parties had an edge over BJP. But if you look at the actual numbers of the vote, 99 were for it and 84 were against it. So, the first question that comes up is, from 125 to 84, what happened to the support of 41 MPs?
Fissures in the Opposition
Well, some of these parties decided to either walk out or abstain from the voting. This brought down the majority mark further down in Rajya Sabha which helped BJP achieve the desired result.
Four BSP MPs, 7 SP MPs, 2 from NCP, 2 from PDP, Five MPs from the congress itself, one from TMC, one from Left parties that is the CPI and CPIM, 1 RJD MP, 1 DMK MP, and 1 YSRCP MP were absent during the voting. whereas TRS which has 6 MPs walked out.
Now, there were two parties in NDA fold who were opposed to the Triple Talaq bill. JDU and AIADMKA. Their 6 and 11 MPs respectively walked out.
At least four Congress MPs — Vivek Tankha, Rajiv Bishwal, Mukud Medhi and Pratap Bajwa — along with senior leader Sanjay Singh were missing. Independent MP KTS Tulsi also didn’t vote, even though he had moved amendments to the bill. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)’s Ram Jethmalani and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)’s Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel were some of the other prominent names missing.
Sanjay Sinh yesterday resigned from the Congress and Rajya Sabha. RS Bharathi from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) was also not present as was an MP from the YSR Congress. Both parties had opposed the bill, but their missing members brought down the Opposition numbers.
Interestingly, BSP whose party chief had asked Muslims to vote for the party during Lok Sabha elections was absent during the vote too. This significantly brought down the majority mark.
This similar scenario took place when the RTI amendment act was taken up for voting in Rajya Sabha. Just a day before the vote, Amit Shah reportedly talked to the leaders of the BJD and YSRCP and the next day both the parties supported RTI amendment bill.
The opposition which boasted of its strength in Rajya Sabha crumbled.
Now there are two takeaways from this situation:
- Even if they have a majority or not, BJP is now able to pass bills in Rajya Sabha on the basis of turning the non-aligned parties on its side.
- Rajya Sabha is no more opposition’s bastion. It is just a matter of time now that the BJP will even reach the majority mark here.
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