IT would be denied. It would be contested. No one in government would admit it on record. But make no mistake. The debate engendered by the triple talaq law leads us only in one direction - a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). The contradictions in the positions taken by the opponents of the bill cutting across the political divide explain the thesis. Let me show how.
The Congress that confidently weakened the Supreme Court verdict to deny maintenance to Shah Bano in 1986 is now agitated that the triple talaq bill denies maintenance to Muslim women! While the official position of Congress party as stated by Ranjit Surjewala supported the law, with some caveats, leaders like Salman Khurshid dumped it outright. Khurshid had incidentally drafted the 1986 law for Rajiv Gandhi.
What explains the Congress ambivalence? For one, BJP ruling at the centre underscores that Hindu consolidation too can bring you to power. Congress’ Antony doctrine that was in full display recently in Gujarat made sure that the grand old party could not be seen to be taking a position against the majority narrative. At the same time, by remaining noncommittal to the minority sentiment it risks further alienating a traditional vote bank. The giveaway came at the time of voting on the bill when Congress refused to support amendments moved by Asaduddin Owaisi.
The AIMIM chief, who fancies himself as the sole Muslim spokesperson in present day politics, strongly championed the cause of Muslim ulema. But imagine what he did: In his intervention to oppose introduction of the bill, Owaisi strongly batted for Section 125 of CrPC, exactly the provision that was opposed by Muslim orthodoxy in Shah Bano case! Clearly shows the distance the nation has travelled between Shah Bano and Shayra Bano.
If you read between the lines, Congress showing nerves over minority appeasement, and Owaisi’s taking refuge under secular provisions of law like the IPC, and seeking protection under articles 14 and 25 of the Constitution, and not the Shariat Act 1937, shows how fertile the ground has become to bring debate on UCC out of the cold storage. Such is the force of public perception this time that even the most conservative elements within the Muslim community have not dared take a pro-triple talaq stand, only objected to State meddling in the domain of religion.
The day of the SC verdict outlawing triple talaq we had broken a story from the studios that the government would bring in a law to give statutory protection to the ruling. The minority view in the SC had actually wanted it to be left to the parliament to decide on the issue. While, the two minority judges might have reflected uncomfortable memories of the summer of 1986 in their caution, a politician as sharp as Narendra Modi grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Going by the discomfiture of Congress party, Modi might have achieved more than a couple of targets. While keeping the agenda setting initiative in his hands, he would have added an incremental vote of Muslim women for 2019, and most significantly, fired up his core constituency with dangling a possibility of that RSS utopia – the UCC.

PS: After our triple talaq law newsbreak, some editors called to question my understanding of law with the argument that SC verdicts become law of the land and do not need an enabling legislation. I responded by saying that while they could question my understanding of law (despite a law degree!), but not my grasp of the BJP led by Narendra Modi. What say?

Of Triple Talaq Politics...

LETS get provocative. BJP is the upholder of secularism. And judiciary follows politics closely. Or what else would you make of the facts connected with Tuesday's instant triple talaq verdict? Its yet another instance of BJP reading the mood of the nation, as Congress whirls in the vortex of its appeasement politics.

Its chronicled history of how Rajiv Gandhi government gave in to the ulema in overturning the Shah Bano verdict through a legislation. Arif Mohamed Khan is still alive to tell the tale. While on the one hand it left the judiciary confused on personal laws and the larger secularism question, on the other it fueled a counter right wing narrative of majority victimhood, scripting BJP's rise through the decade of 90s. Post Shah Bano, the Supreme Court touched questions of triple talaq and personal laws in case after case with a barge pole under Congress, giving most progressive interpretations of constitution on personal laws only during intervening periods of BJP rule.

Thus it is no coincidence that in 1995 Sarla Mudgal case Supreme Court rued lack of climate to even debate the uniform civil code. Two years later in the Ahmedabad Women's Action Group petition, the apex court still thought issues like talaq and polygamy remained the domain of the legislature. Both verdicts quoted by AIMPLB lawyers were under Congress and United Front governments.

Though the laissez faire on personal laws continued, SC demurred a bit in the 2001 Daniel Latifi case, acknowledging some connect between dignity of muslim women and fundamental right to life under Article 21. Lordships showed a little more courage in Javed vs. State of Haryana in 2003, terming polygamy as bad as Sati. Guess what both during BJP led NDA government!

So it comes as no surprise that instant triple talaq stands abolished in the country under a regime headed by Narendra Modi. Since October last, the Prime Minister has spoken with conviction on at least six occasions, taking cudgels on behalf of embattled muslim women. The BJP succeeded in tying the issue with the secularism debate. PM tweeted, and party chief Amit Shah addressed a press conference. The party would have no qualms admitting they see a constituency in half of the muslim population of the country. Congress on the other hand looked adrift, wooden, and even dishonest. Having so easily scripted arguably the most progressive Hindu reform after the Code Bills by giving Hindu women succession rights in parental property in 2005, Congress was again found playing footsie with ulema what with two of its leaders, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khursheed, representing the most regressive AIMPLB against Shaira Bano. No wonder which party comes out as more in command, and in tune with the mood of the nation.