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With an eye on UP2017, is Uniform Civil Code BJP's next jumla?

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 1 July 2016, 16:54 IST

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is among the oldest tricks up the BJP's sleeve, along with the abrogation of Article 370 and the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. In that light, it is not surprising that the Union government has reportedly nudged the Law Commission to begin the process to seriously examine the implementation of the UCC.

The decision, if true, is an exercise in trademark electoral gimmickry, with an eye on the forthcoming polls.

A report in the Economic Times has claimed that the Union Law Ministry has written to the Law Commission, asking it to "examine the matter in relation to uniform civil code and submit a report". The Law Commission will hold discussions with experts and stakeholders and will then submit the report, the report said. Retired Supreme Court judge Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan currently heads the commission.

What is the UCC?

Principally speaking, the UCC is an instrument to replace the several personal laws in India that are based on the separate customs and teachings of all religions. These laws are largely related to marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and maintenance.

The UCC proposes that there will a common set of laws on these subjects for all citizens, irrespective of their religion and local customs.

To be sure, it is not an unconstitutional proposal. Article 44 in Part 4 of the Constitution of India enjoins the State to "endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India." The code itself, however, is not defined in the Constitution, and this is where the BJP tries to use the ambiguity to its advantage.

Must read- Uniform Civil Code: forced majoritarianism or voluntary reform?

However, the Sangh Parivar uses it as a political ploy, and as an extension of its carefully crafted attack on only one community. The BJP has featured UCC and the other two issues on its electoral manifestos for decades, even in its latest manifesto of 2014.

Upper caste appeasement

But the reason why it has never been able to act upon it is because it is a hugely divisive issue, just like Article 370 and Ram Mandir. Nevertheless, the party keeps it on its manifestos to appease its upper caste Hindu vote bank.

Upper caste appeasement is considered essential to win next year's Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh. By raking the issue up at this point in time, the BJP will be hoping to consolidate its core vote bank through its classic dog-whistle politics.

The Ram Mandir issue has also been raised, although through unofficial channels. As the polls draw closer, it is quite likely that the Ram Mandir issue will be formally taken up as well.

BJP MP Subramanian Swamy recently tweeted that he is preparing to renew his campaign for day-to-day hearing in the Supreme Court on the Ram Temple issue.

Even beyond UP, the BJP is expected to keep up the rhetoric on all three issues, since they have a national significance for the party, and will aid its campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 1 July 2016, 16:54 IST
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.