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Eye on Muslim women vote, Narendra Modi gets combative on triple talaq

PM Modi tried to achieve twin objectives: Touch a chord with Muslim women and drill into the head of BJP leaders that they don’t need to be defensive on triple talaq.

analysis Updated: Jun 01, 2017 11:10 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PM Modi,Muslim women,Modi Odisha meet
Prime minister Narendra Modi was in Bhubaneswar for the two-day BJP national executive meet.(PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was combative, and certainly not defensive, when he spoke at the BJP conclave in Bhubaneswar about a ban on the Islamic marriage practice of triple talaq. He tried to achieve twin objectives: Touch a chord with Muslim women and drill into the head of BJP leaders that they don’t need to be defensive on this issue.

Modi asked BJP leaders to stand by every Muslim woman who fights for her rights and oppose the practice. Under Muslim personal law based on the Sharia, a Muslim man can divorce his wife by pronouncing talaq thrice. Muslim men are also allowed to have four wives.

BJP leaders have been given assignments to hold conferences, travel across the country and resort to other means to spread awareness about Modi government’s position on this centuries-old practice.

The Modi government’s position on triple talaq and the Prime Minister reaffirming that position at the party conclaves serves two purposes for the BJP.

It helps India’s ruling party to reach out to a large section of Muslim women who have been opposing the practice. Largely, Muslims in India vote against the BJP and a section within the ruling party expect Modi’s stand on triple talaq to win over a large section of Muslim women, at least in the future if not immediately.

Also, it helps the BJP drive home a point among Hindus that Modi, as their leader, was trying reform within Muslim community, which has perhaps not allowed equal opportunity and status to its women. Any aggressive posturing on the issue of triple talaq, BJP sources said, will be received well within the party’s core support base.

Gender equality is part of the basic structure of the Constitution and non-negotiable, the Centre told the Supreme Court in October last year while opposing the practices of triple talaq and polygamy in the Muslim community.

This was the first time the Indian government officially took a stand to oppose the contentious custom that has divided the community, with women’s groups and individuals advocating sweeping reforms in Muslim personal law that is tilted against women.

India has separate sets of personal laws for each religion governing marriage, divorce, succession, adoption and maintenance. While Hindu law overhaul began in the 1950s and continues, activists have long argued that Muslim personal law has remained mostly unchanged.

First Published: Apr 17, 2017 13:25 IST