Both Houses adjourned. Triple Talaq bill deferred. The bill did not even come to vote. It was placed last in in priority in the list of business, almost as if the BJP never intended to have the bill passed. This I had not predicted. I was predicting a passage of the bill if put to vote. But it never came to that.
BJP blames Congress and vice versa. Nothing new here. However, let’s consider the optics. I’d like to clarify let’s look at the optics from the viewpoint of a typical voter; typical voters don’t follow House proceedings.
But typical voters make up most of us, and at least half of us vote. The typical voters is unaware of the technical reasons (and perhaps valid?) that the opposition to the bill was based on — cognizable criminality, prison terms etc. and equally unaware that BJP brought fifty or so burqa-clad women to view the passage of the bill. These are not the optics that matter.
The only ones that do are these — the BJP brought a bill to outlaw an unjust practice against Muslim women — triple talaq. That most people, including Muslim women support the bill. And finally, perhaps, that Congress opposed it, and possibly even that they (the Congress) killed the bill, and NOT that it was only deferred. Any more detail than this does not interest your typical voter.
The Congress was able to unite various opposition parties, including parties like the TDP and AIADMK, who normally always support the BJP, against a “defective” bill. But the voter doesn’t care. So this round goes to the BJP.
This does not help the “Soft Hindutva” brand building, and I admit this is not what I predicted. In the voters’ eyes, Congress is back to playing vote-bank politics; not quite the intended brand message.
So what does all of this have to do with Lokpal? Rahul Gandhi’s single tweet after yesterday’s proceedings is enlightening. Rahul Gandhi said, “Are the ‘defenders of democracy’ & ‘harbingers of accountability’ listening?” Gandhi was diverting your attention to the 2013 Lokpal bill that was enacted into law in early 2014 by the Congress Government. And yes, this is a diversion. A deliberate distraction. A brand-damage limiting distraction.
But the BJP has refused to enforce the Lokpal law so far. The same Supreme Court that forced the BJP to “constitutionalise” the triple talaq judgement, said that the Lokpal law is an “eminently workable piece of legislation” and that there is “no justification” to keep its enforcement under suspension till the amendments are carried out. This law came into effect on January 16, 2014. The Standing Committee report and recommendations were available two years ago. So while the Government deliberated on the amendments for two years…triple talaq bill drafted in one month! As the Economic Times said “the ball is in the Centre’s court”.
This still however, has zero impact on the optics. Most people won’t know about this. Most people, however, do remember Anna Hazare’s Lokpal dharna. You need only to repeat “Lokpal” a few times, and you’ll start wondering, why are the “harbingers of accountability” missing in action?
If they have dragged their feet on Lokpal, then maybe, just maybe, they are NOT what they seem???
Right then— “LieHard”, “Fake in India”, “Neech”, “Jaitlie”, “Shakaal” and, “Gabbar Singh tax”…became that much more stickier.
Rahul Gandhi may have lost today’s round of persuasion, but it’s still very early in the game.