BJP's bid to endear itself to Muslim women

BJP's bid to endear itself to Muslim women

Behind the government's determined push in the Lok Sabha to pass the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017 lies the BJP's bid to endear itself to poorer sections of women of the minority community.

The BJP believes that these women, who have been at the receiving end from their menfolk, have looked up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an end to their suffering.

After the bill was passed, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad interacted with Muslim women who sought clarifications even as they appreciated the move.  

Its decision to introduce the bill seeking to criminalise the practice of instant triple talaq among Muslims, which was passed in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, came within four months of the Supreme Court's verdict against the practice.

BJP leaders say they have had reasons to believe that Muslim women voters supported their party in Uttar Pradesh and other states ever since the Modi government took a strong stand in the apex court against the triple talaq.

Although the Opposition parties and some Muslim leaders have accused the BJP of trying to appropriate the causes of Muslim women for their own political gains, the BJP has held that its decision was linked to the issue of gender justice.

"We are not looking for votes in this issue," declared Ravi Shankar Prasad shortly before the Lok Sabha passed the legislation. In the House, Prasad buttressed his case for the bill by citing numerous instances of triple talaq on frivolous grounds despite the apex court's verdict. In particular, he mentioned the case of a woman who was divorced on Thursday morning because she woke up late.  

Modi 'brother'

During the debate in the Lok Sabha, the government did make an emotional appeal focusing on the empowerment of Muslim women. It fielded BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi who did not hesitate to say that "when women have a brother like Modi, they do not need to worry" and "women are the biggest minority in this country".

Union Minister of State M J Akbar provided the best defence. He said those opposed to the bill were trying to use the "fear" of threat to Islam to deprive Muslim women of their dues. "This slogan 'Islam khatre mein hai' (Islam is in danger) was used before Independence to divide India and is now being used to divide society... poison is being spread," Akbar said.

As for the Opposition's fear that many Muslim men would be harassed on account of the new bill, Akbar said there were ample laws like the dowry act and the domestic violence act, which were applicable to all people, irrespective of their faith, for any criminal offence against women.

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