As BJP Says UCC Still On Agenda, ‘Secular’ Allies Stress Need for Consensus

JDU spokesperson K C Tyagi said while the party was not against UCC, it wanted the decision to 'come through consensus'

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Members of Sunni Muslim groups protest together against Law Commissions consultation over triple talaq and the Uniform Civil Code in 2016 Photo: Getty Images

As the BJP-led NDA government begins its third term, its ally, Janata Dal (United), has reminded the BJP that key decisions like the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code would need the allies’ consensus.

JDU spokesperson K C Tyagi while speaking to The Indian Express said while the party was not against UCC, it wanted the decision to “come through consensus”. The statement by Nitish Kumar’s JDU came as Union Minister of State for Law and Justice Arjun Ram Meghwal had on Tuesday said that UCC was still on the government’s agenda.

Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the saffron party had listed the implementation of the UCC as one of its poll promises, in the ‘Sankalp Patra’. The manifesto stated, “BJP believes that there cannot be gender equality till such time Bharat adopts a Uniform Civil Code, which protects the rights of all women, and the BJP reiterates its stand to draw a Uniform Civil Code, drawing upon the best traditions and harmonising them with the modern times."

In March, Uttarakhand became the first state to adopt the UCC. The BJP had then stated that Uttarakhand would show the way to the other states, and implementing UCC nationwide became one of "Modi's guarantees" if they won the elections. However, the situation hasn't quite gone as the BJP would have envisioned. Without a majority, the BJP now has had to rely on its allies to form a coalition government. Given the past reactions of primary allies JDU and TDP to the UCC, and their insistence on being included in key decisions, implementing the UCC will not be an easy feat for the BJP.

KC Tyagi told The Indian Express that Bihar CM Nitish Kumar made a submission to the Law Commission in 2017 on UCC which had stated, “While the State must endeavour to bring in the UCC, such an effort, in order to be enduring and sustainable, must be based on a broad consensus… rather than be imposed by fiat from above.”

The letter also stated,”he also said that any attempt to impose UCC could lead to “social friction and erosion of faith in the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion”.

In a separate interview with The Indian Express, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu’s son N Lokesh Naidu had said “issues like delimitation, Uniform Civil Code, etc will be discussed at length and resolved amicably. We will sit together with partners across the table and try to achieve a consensus on all these issues. There is a lot to discuss.”

The Uniform Civil Code, hailed as a saviour for women's rights by the BJP, has, in the past, faced criticism from the opposition for purportedly targeting one community. The bill bans people from having more than one spouse, makes it necessary to register marriages, treats all children the same regardless of how they were born or adopted, and gives both men and women the same rights to inherit property.

In Outlook's 'Uniform Civil Code' issue from June last year, reporters looked at how the UCC wasn’t a viable option for a pluri-national and multi-religious nation like India. How instead of UCC, the focus should be on the codification of different personal laws and how feminist movements were the first to welcome the idea of a Uniform Civil Code but with right-wingers hijacking the proposal, they retracted and called for reforms in personal laws instead.