The Congress on Wednesday accused the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre of treating the matter of triple talaq – the practice of divorcing by uttering the word “talaq” thrice – like “political football”.

The comment came hours after the Union Cabinet approved an ordinance making triple talaq a punishable offence. The government took the decision after failing to get Parliament to pass legislation on the matter. The ordinance has similar provisions as The Muslim Women Protection of Rights in Marriage Act that the Lok Sabha cleared in December. The bill criminalised the practice of divorcing by uttering the word “talaq” thrice in any form – spoken, in writing, or over electronic communication. It also proposed a three-year jail term for men who violate the law.

However, the bill faced stiff resistance in the Rajya Sabha. Several Opposition lawmakers argued that it must be sent to a select committee for close scrutiny. Opposition parties led by the Congress had concerns about the jail term the bill proposed, and had asked the government who would provide for the family if the husband is imprisoned. The parties wanted the government to include in the legislation provisions for financial aid to Muslim women and suggested government aid also.

Repeating these concerns, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Wednesday the Modi government has only indulged in vilification and blame game on the matter instead of “listing out the solutions or concerns raised by Muslim women on the subsistence for themselves as also the children born out of the marriage”.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP have become habitual offenders of using the issue of ‘instant triple talaq’ as a ‘political football’ for ‘vote garnering’ rather than ensuring the welfare and subsistence of Muslim women,” Surjewala said.

In August 2017, the Supreme Court declared instant triple talaq illegal and unconstitutional. Muslim women had petitioned the court, arguing that practice violates their rights.

“When triple talaq has been quashed, the next issue now is of providing justice to Muslim women,” Surjewala added, according to PTI. “They should have the right to allowance from the property of their husband to look after themselves and their children. The property of those men who are unable to provide this compensation, should be attached. But the Modi government is avoiding this.”

Historic ordinance, says BJP

Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah, meanwhile, called the ordinance historic. “This ordinance is also a matter of guilt and introspection for them [Opposition political parties] as they forced Muslim women to suffer from this bad practice for decades due to their vote bank politics,” he said. This decision will allow Muslim women to live with dignity in society, he added.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, while announcing the components of the ordinance, also criticised the Congress. “It’s my serious charge with full sense of responsibility that a distinguished woman leader is ultimate leader of the Congress, yet barbaric inhuman triple talaq was not allowed to be ended by a Parliamentary law for pure vote bank politics,” he said, referring to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi.

Anti-Muslim women, says Owaisi

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi, however, said the ordinance is “anti-Muslim women”.

“This ordinance is anti-Muslim women. This will lead to more injustice to Muslim women,” he said. “I cannot speak for the Muslim Personal Law Board but I hope this should be challenged in the courts of law.”