The Uniform Civil Code ball lobbed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has created fresh rift in the opposition, with at least two parties – Aam Aadmi Party and Shiv Sena (Udhav Thackeray) out of the 15 parties who attended the June 23 opposition meet in Patna, expressing a qualified support for it. The BJP’s erstwhile ally Shiromani Akali Dal meanwhile has spoken out against it.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said that the party is in principle support of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). “The party is in principle support of the Uniform Civil Code. Article 44 also says that there should be UCC in the country. But it is connected to all religions, so there should be wider consultation on the issue with all religions and political parties,” AAP MP Sandeep Pathak told the media.
Their political rivals Shiromani Akali Dal have taken a diametrically opposite position, saying that UCC would have an adverse impact on the minority and tribal communities. It instead pitched for reforms in “discriminatory” personal laws instead of bringing a common law for the entire country. It slammed AAP for extending its “in-principle” support to the UCC, saying the nod has exposed its “anti-minority face.”
In a statement released in Chandigarh, senior SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema said Akali Dal has always opposed the Uniform Civil Code for the entire country and it would submit its reservations on the issue to the 22nd Law Commission as well as in Parliament. The civil laws in the country, he said are influenced by “faith, belief, caste and customs” that were different for different religions. And for safeguarding the social fabric, it is essential to retain this diversity.
Meanwhile on the opposition bench, Shiv Sena (Udhaav Thackeray) took a similar position as AAP. Senior leader Sanjay Raut argued that the Sena historically has always supported it. “We support the idea of Uniform Civil Code. Though, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s latest campaign is a political stunt aimed at the next general elections and not a sincere exercise to bring the UCC. In view of his remarks, we will have to sit and deliberate on the issue,” Mr. Raut told The Hindu.
The other opposition leaders have so far opposed PM Modi’s strong pitch for UCC. Jharkhand Chief Minister and JMM leader Hemant Soren waved off the issue, taking a similar stand as the Congress calling it a move to distract from the real issues. When asked about his comment on PM Modi’s statement on UCC, Mr. Soren said, “Ask him how would he give employment first, how would he bring down inflation. Speak on that first.”
The Congress, came with a more structured response, with former Home Minister P Chidambaram, in a series of tweets, saying that the issue cannot be forced on people by an “agenda-driven majoritarian government” as it will “widen divisions” among people.
“The Hon’ble PM is making it appear that UCC is a simple exercise. He should read the report of the last Law Commission that pointed out it was not feasible at this time The nation is divided today owing to the words and deeds of the BJP. A UCC imposed on the people will only widen the divisions,” he said.
Noting that a Uniform Civil Code is an aspiration, the senior Congress leader said, “It cannot be forced on the people by an agenda-driven majoritarian government.” Mr. Chidambaram alleged that having failed in good governance, the BJP was deploying the UCC to polarise the electorate and attempt to win the next elections.
“The PM has equated a nation to a family while pitching for UCC. While in an abstract sense his comparison may appear true, the reality is very different. A family is knit together by blood relationships. A nation is brought together by a Constitution which is a political-legal document.
“Even in a family, there is diversity. The Constitution of India recognised diversity and plurality among the people of India,” he said in the tweet.