By Ashima Makhija
Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal seems to be experiencing quite a turbulent year. After having faced clashes over the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) polls, he has now endangered the position of his party in the case of triple talaq.
On behalf of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Sibal has adopted a conservative and fundamentalist stance at the Supreme Court. His stance that defends the age-old practice of triple talaq, has received intense criticism on social media platforms. News18, a media outlet, reported a senior Congress leader stating how Sibal has become a source of “embarrassment” for his party. This is because of his outspoken support for triple talaq and his public ridicule of the Congress.
After several internal clashes and electoral failures, the Congress has been seen engaged in an attempt to shed off its “appeasing” image and come forth as a progressive unit. However, at such a crucial time, the former Union minister’s support for oral divorce, might just jeopardise this attempt.
Sibal and the Congress: A clash of ideologies
Officially, the Indian National Congress has expressed strong opposition to oral divorce. Unlike Sibal, the Congress believes that the issue of triple talaq is about the rights of Muslim women and not the Muslim community at large. However, in the Supreme Court, Kapil Sibal has presented an outlook which is starkly different from the Congress’ official statement.
He has held that a 1400-year-old religious tradition cannot be tested on the grounds of constitutional morality and that this reform was being initiated at the convenience of the Hindu majority. Despite several aggrieved Muslim women trying to expose the discrimination in the practice, Sibal has contended that this reform had not originated from the Muslim minority. Furthermore, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board argued that personal laws are a legitimate basis for discrimination and cannot be scrutinised through the lens of Fundamental Rights.
This is not the first time that Kapil Sibal has landed in a controversial position with the Congress. After a dismal performance in the Delhi civic elections this year, Sibal publicly questioned and criticised his party’s electoral strategy. He said that his party had “failed to take everyone along” and that those who had actually played a role in transforming Delhi were not made part of the electoral thoroughfare.
The Delhi Municipal Corporation elections were indeed difficult for the Congress. Several eminent names like Arvinder Lovely and Burkha Singh had left the party right before elections. The Congress was barely hanging by the thread after the results were declared, and Sibal’s comments ignited internal dissent once more.
The Bengal Congress has also boycotted Sibal because of a legal battle he fought, along with Abhishek Singhvi, in favour of Trinamool Congress (TNC) in the Supreme Court. In March 2017, the Bengal Congress filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Kolkata High Court seeking a CBI investigation into the Narada sting operation. This operation had exposed the corrupt practices of a number of Trinamool Congress’ MPs, ministers, and leaders. Even though the lawyers knew that the PIL was filed by the Bengal Congress, they supported the TNC in court.
Similarly, in the multi-crore Saradha chit-fund scam, Sibal defended the TNC when the Congress had just worked up an alliance with the Left ahead of the state polls. He defied the Congress leadership when commanded to withdraw from the case.
A debasement of an already tarnished image?
With internal imbalance and electoral failures in UP, Manipur, Goa and Delhi, Congress is in a very precarious position. People’s faith in the party and its leaders has been on a continuous decline. Kapil Sibal’s repeated acts of defiance reflect conflict and dissent within the party. At a time when it is crucial for the Congress to restructure itself and stand united, his non-compliance is tainting its already-tarnished image.
His support for triple talaq, backed by his fundamentalist approach, might just invite wide opposition for the Congress, even when the party itself does not espouse such views. At a time like this, it is very important for the Congress to restore public faith in itself, and put forth a united and progressive front. However, all that can be seen as of now, is one party lined with intramural opposition and disharmony.
Featured image credits: Flickr
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