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After Uttarakhand, Himachal, BJP opts for tried & tested pre-poll promise in MP — Uniform Civil Code

BJP leaders say the move by BJP-led states to form UCC panels 'should not be seen in isolation but keeping 2024 elections in mind'. Opposition criticises it as a pre-poll gimmick.

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New Delhi: After Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, yet another Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled state Madhya Pradesh has decided to form a panel to look into the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC).

According to a senior party leader, such a move by the BJP-led states should not be seen in isolation but keeping the 2024 general elections in mind.

Apart from these states, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Assam government have also been talking about UCC. The Karnataka government in November had said it was “seriously” considering implementation of the UCC to ensure equality.

Introducing the UCC — which envisions common personal civil laws for all citizens regardless of religion — has been a long-standing agenda of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS has always maintained that this was needed in order to foster an “inclusive India”.

“Under the Modi government at the Centre we have already fulfilled the two major promises — of doing away with Article 370 (which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir), and the Ayodhya Temple will be ready before 2024. So, naturally the focus will now be on UCC. We believe in doing what we promise,” said a senior BJP leader.

Addressing members of some tribal communities at a rally Thursday at Chachariya gram panchayat of Sendhwa block in Barwani district, Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said: “Many badmaash (fraud elements) marry our tribal daughters and take over land in their name. I believe that in Bharat the time has come to implement the Uniform Civil Code. Why should anyone marry more than once? Ek desh mein do vidhaan kyun chaley? Ek hi hona chahiye (why should there be two laws in one country? there should be only one law).”

“I am making a committee in Madhya Pradesh for Uniform Civil Code. If there is permission for having only one wife under UCC then only one should be allowed, why should there be more?” argued Chouhan.

According to a senior BJP leader, the move for UCC is also aimed at gauging the response of voters before 2024, in case the party should implement it nationally. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, too, had said last month that the BJP is committed to bringing in UCC at an “opportune” time.

“Three states have already set up committees and in Uttarakhand the exercise is moving swiftly,” said another party leader. “Contrary to what the opposition has been saying, tribal women are not in favour of polygamy. The Uttarakhand government has already got lakhs of responses from all sections of society and after studying all the states and the responses, a strategy for the future will be prepared.”

Congress, though, has pointed out that the BJP brings up the UCC issue only before elections.

‘Why talk about UCC only during elections?’

Similar to other BJP-ruled states, the announcement by Madhya Pradesh comes before the crucial Assembly elections in the state in 2023.

In Uttarakhand, too, days before the elections in the state, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had announced setting up a committee to look into the implementation of UCC.

Barely two days before the Uttarakhand polls, Dhami had said a committee will be formed to prepare the draft of the UCC in the state to provide the same laws for everyone regarding marriage, divorce, property and inheritance as soon as the BJP forms the government in the state.

The move was criticised by the opposition with the Congress terming it a desperate move. Though after coming to power, the state government did constitute a panel, the final report of the committee is awaited.

Similarly, in October ahead of the on-going assembly elections, the Gujarat government had approved setting up a committee to implement UCC. The announcement was made by state home minister Harsh Sanghvi.

Not to be left behind, Himachal Pradesh CM Jairam Thakur, too, had promised to implement the UCC in the state if voted back to power.

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate, however, asked why the BJP raises the UCC issue only during elections.

“The BJP is in power in 19 states. Why is it that they only talk about UCC during elections? Legislation is not formed in election rallies. Elected representatives must sit and discuss the issue and form a law. The Congress believes in the Indian Constitution — both in letter and spirit — and our stand on any issue is rooted in this belief,” said Shrinate.

(Edited by V.S. Chandrasekar)


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