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Unease in Opposition, BJP smacks lips

Ghulam Nabi Azad accuses government of ‘cheating’ on bill
Ghulam Nabi Azad, Derek O’Brien and Congress leader Anand Sharma in Parliament on Wednesday.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, Derek O’Brien and Congress leader Anand Sharma in Parliament on Wednesday.
(Prem Singh)

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 31.07.19, 08:37 PM

Opposition leaders on Wednesday said the government had cheated them to pass the triple talaq bill in the Rajya Sabha, but that did not allay the unease among several members who felt the floor managers of many parties had failed miserably.

Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad raised the matter in the Rajya Sabha and outside, alleging that the government went back on its word and got the bill through by deceit on Tuesday.


“The parliamentary affairs minister and his other colleagues (ministers of state) approached us, asking which are the bills the Opposition wants to be sent to select committees. They gave us a list of 23 bills. We wanted at least half of them to be sent to select committees for scrutiny,” he said.

Azad continued: “But they insisted on a smaller number…. So, we collectively — the Opposition — identified six bills as ‘A’ category and two bills under ‘B’ category. The list was taken by the government. The bill discussed yesterday (triple talaq), I am sorry to say, was the number one bill we had identified for sending to a select committee. The bill which was listed No. 2 (UAPA) was also identified for sending to a select committee.”

The government did not get back to the Opposition and at night listed the triple talaq bill for the next day, Azad said.

“Since we were in the dark, we could not inform our members. They ensured their members were present. Our members were under the illusion that this bill is going to be referred to a select committee. This should not be done. This is not fair on the part of the government,” Azad said.

Trinamul member Derek O’Brien said: “They listed the bill on Monday night, at 9.30pm, taking everyone by surprise. There is a rule and there is an understanding, there is a convention. We… don’t do anything clandestine midnight to catch people by surprise…. If the government has the numbers, they can pass the bills. But let us fight for the integrity of Parliament…. Are we delivering pizzas or passing legislation?”

But many MPs, belonging to the Congress and other Opposition parties, were seething with rage and argued that the talaq bill could have been blocked. The bill was passed 99-84, a gap of 15 votes, with around 20 Opposition members absent.

An Opposition MP angrily said: “When you know at 10pm on Monday night that the bill is listed, why didn’t you mobilise the members?”

At the least, the leaders could have protested on Tuesday itself, before the debate and vote on the bill, that the government had gone back on its commitment. “There is either complicity or casual negligence,” the MP said.

One Congress member was so angry he demanded change of leadership in the Rajya Sabha.

While the BSP’s four members left after the debate, seven of the Samajwadi Party’s 12 members were absent. Samajwadi leader Azam Khan’s wife and MP Tanzeen Fatma was among them. All abstentions were not suspect, with some MPs saying they were not aware of the vote.

Although bills are listed on the House website, not all members check it routinely and it is up to the leaders to inform and mobilise them.

Besides Sanjay Sinh who resigned on Tuesday, three Congress MPs — Vivek Tankha, Ranjib Biswal and Mukut Methi — were absent.

The NCP’s Sharad Pawar was fighting defections in Mumbai, while colleague Praful Patel stayed away.

The absence of two members of the PDP is being suspected as defiance of the leadership, the RJD’s Ram Jethmalani is ill. One CPM member and Trinamul’s K.D. Singh kept away.

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