New Delhi, September 23
The BJP government in Uttarakhand on Saturday granted a four-month extension to an expert committee set up to draft the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) law, signalling a clear rethink on the part of the Centre on whether and when to push the controversial agenda. This is the third extension for the panel set up on May 27, 2022.
The extension of the term when the panel has nearly finalised its report has raised a question mark on the BJP’s UCC strategy.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his strongest public pitch in favour of the UCC from Bhopal on June 27, it seemed the agenda would become the BJP’s main rallying point for the Hindi heartland state elections (Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh this year) and the 2024 Lok Sabha poll.
On June 30, Uttarakhand panel chief Ranjana Prakash Desai, a former Supreme Court judge, had announced that the committee's exercise was near complete and the UCC report would be submitted “very soon”. On July 1, Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Dhami said the state would act on the draft UCC as soon as it received the report from the committee.
The BJP, however, slowed down on the agenda gradually amid indications that tribals, a segment the saffron party assiduously woos, may get wrong signals about the law that seeks uniform laws for marriage across faiths. Tribals have their own special customs. That explained the BJP's cold feet on the only party manifesto agenda among three--other two being Abrogation of Article 370 and Ram Mandir--remaining to be fulfilled.
The Uttarakhand UCC draft was earlier meant to be a model draft Bill for other BJP states to follow. In Himachal and Karnataka polls which the BJP lost, it had promised a UCC if voted to power. Sources said the government did not want to take chances in poll year and was acutely conscious of perceptions its UCC move could create. The government also has the example of farm laws before it. Today, the panel received its third extension for four months. State's Additional Chief Secretary Radha Raturi issued a related notification.
- The extension has come despite the panel claiming in June that Uniform Civil Code (UCC) draft was ready
- The BJP fears the UCC may antagonise tribals, a segment it is assiduously wooing; UCC seeks uniform laws for marriage across faiths even as tribals have their own customs
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