The Modi government has dropped hints that it is getting serious about implementing the contentious Uniform Civil Code (UCC), with at least two BJP CMs openly backing the move that has been on the saffron party's menu for a while.
Chief Ministers of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, Pushkar Dhami and Jai Ram Thakur, respectively, have backed the UCC while a minister in the Uttar Pradesh government has talked of plans to convince Muslims on the merits of the code.
Even Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke of the need to "focus on the Common Civil Code" last week during a meeting of the BJP Core Committee in Bhopal.
For the BJP, the UCC makes perfect sense. With the construction of Ram Temple beginning and Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir abolished, UCC could emerge as the new battle cry for the party ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha polls, when it will seek a third consecutive term.
Though politically a hot button issue, the UCC offers another opportunity for the saffron party to polarise voters while packaging it as a well-intentioned, progressive move like in the case of triple talaq.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) is hostile to the idea, describing the UCC as "anti-minorities" and “unacceptable to the Muslims”. But the BJP is readying a counter to it.
Danish Azad Ansari, the lone Muslim minister in the Adityanath government, is planning to organise "Qaumi Chaupals" in UP to convince Muslims to get on board the UCC idea, a sign of the importance the BJP is attaching to the move.
Political analyst Rasheed Kidwai feels the BJP is “sensing political dividends” from contentious issues, particularly in areas where the Muslim community leaders either get agitated or confrontationist.
“The road to UCC faces many hurdles and legal challenges as it affects many religious and tribal communities but after the instant triple talaq experience, the BJP is sure footed about the electoral potency of UCC regardless of what the Law Commission and others may have observed,” said Kidwai.
Way back in 2018, the Law Commission had said that UCC was “neither necessary nor desirable” at this stage and that the issue of UCC was “vast” and its “potential repercussions, untested”.
This was two years after the Modi government in its first tenure asked the commission whether it was time to bring in a uniform civil code.
Those in the know of the things say Uttarakhand, where Muslim population is nearly 14%, could become the first state to make a move on the UCC.
This would be prudent as the government is apparently not keen on witnessing another nationwide protest on the lines of CAA.
The BJP government in Uttarakhand has already set up a panel to prepare a draft of the UCC while poll-bound Himachal Pradesh, which has less than 3 % Muslim population, said it is open to implementing it.
Notwithstanding the noise around it, the implementation of UCC has its own challenges given the vast complexities involved and the discomfiture of some NDA allies like Nitish Kumar of JD-U in Bihar.
Opposition parties have stressed that any such decision should be taken after discussions in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
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