Editorial: The intent behind Amit Shah’s words

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Friday, November 25, 2022, 10:30 PM IST
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Among the issues hanging fire for the last 75 years, through several shades and ideologies of governments at the Centre, is the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). It got an airing every now and then in the first few decades after independence but gathered political momentum in the 1990s when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) included it as a key campaign point in the Vajpayee-Advani era. It, not unsurprisingly, found a place in the party’s manifesto for the 2019 general election forming the third of the triad of issues after the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya and abrogation of Article 370. Now that both these are done with, the BJP Government at the Centre was expected to rake up the UCC issue.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s reference earlier this week should, therefore, be seen as part of the larger plan to bring the issue to the foreground as the party prepares for the next round of state Assembly elections and eventually the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Shah predictably relied on the constitutional support that his party has repeatedly cited – Article 44 which states that “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”. What he cleverly and cunningly left out was that the Article comes under the Directive Principles, which means it should be read as a guideline and not mandatory obligation on the State. The party and the government, however, will ratchet it up in the coming months repeating the constitutional basis.

The core idea of the UCC – a common civil law governing marriage, divorce, adoption, succession and inheritance – to replace the present system, in which personal laws of communities are governed by their religion, seems at odds with Article 25 which gives Indians the right to practise their religion besides other things. There has been expected and consistent opposition to the UCC from the minorities, especially the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) which seeks to be the voice of Muslims. There cannot be an opposition to making any law in favour of gender justice and removing discrimination against women, but this is only a thin cover for the BJP’s agenda to erase the identities of minorities and subsume them under the larger Indian identity. Shah’s reference to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which he warned would be implemented soon, is also part of this larger agenda to subdue Muslims.

A genuinely secular civil law that does not hurt any community or tribe is an idea whose time has come but this cannot be the cover under which the BJP fulfils its majoritarian agenda.


Aaditya reaches out – with an agenda

When the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government was unseated in June this year and Uddhav Thackeray ceased to be the chief minister, there were questions raised about the political future of his son and former minister Aaditya Thackeray whose clout depended entirely on his father’s position. In the months since, Aaditya Thackeray seems to have found his political mojo, this time on his own strength. He joined Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, currently on Bharat Jodo Yatra, to walk some distance; the photos spoke of an easy camaraderie. Though Gandhi had made his reservations clear about the Congress aligning with the Shiv Sena, with good reason too, he appeared to have warmed up to the Thackeray scion.

This week, Aaditya Thackeray made a seemingly unlikely day trip to Patna to meet Tejashwi Yadav, deputy chief minister of Bihar and leader of the Rashtriya Janata Dal. They appeared comfortable with one another, having met after years of speaking over the phone. The immediate motivation for Aaditya Thackeray to reach out to Yadav is the forthcoming election to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in which the votes of those whom the Shiv Sena lambasts as “Uttar Bharatiya” — migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh — can prove to be a critical factor for the party still grappling with the split engineered by Eknath Shinde.

The Sena has been traditionally hostile to migrants, in recent years to those from Bihar and UP. Though Uddhav Thackeray, as the chief of the undivided Shiv Sena, softened the stance considerably the Thackerays now face the charge from the Shinde camp that they diluted the Sena’s sons-of-the-soil ideology. If Aaditya Thacakeray can take these political relationships beyond personal rapport and immediate electoral calculations, he will add a few inches to his political stature.

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