Karnataka BJP looks set to make UCC its 2023 Assembly poll ‘Brahmastra’

Author: Narendra Puppala

Bengaluru, December 17 (IANS) The debate on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the Legislature has brought the issue back to center stage. With several BJP-ruled states taking steps in the direction, the ruling BJP in Karnataka also stands to gain politically.

Due to Bengaluru’s corruption issues and civic infrastructure in shambles, the Bommai dispensation has used the Hindutva card to counter a certain Congress party.

Karnataka, being the major economic powerhouse of southern India, is crucial for the country’s two main political parties.

As part of its aggressive Hindutva stance, the BJP government in Karnataka has already introduced laws banning cow slaughter and conversion. The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) seems to be the next arrow in the BJP’s quiver.

The UCC, which mandates common personal civil laws for all citizens regardless of their religion, is something that has been at the core of the BJP and its source: the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

In late November, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said his government was “very serious” about launching a Uniform Civil Code. The comments came after the party’s Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh units included the contentious issue in their manifestos for the assembly polls in the respective states.

“There is serious discussion about UCC at the national and state levels. The intention is to implement it at the right time. We are also discussing ways and means to implement it in our state,” Bommai said while addressing Shivamogga party workers. .

Political observer Rama Krishna Upadhya pointed out that while there is little the Karnataka government can do in the near future, these statements should be seen in the context of the BJP’s plans for the 2024 parliamentary polls.

“These statements by BJP leaders in Karnataka and other states should be seen as an attempt to test the waters. How people react, what is the reaction of the Muslim community to such moves. They will make it an issue for the 2024 General Elections.”

Predictably, the BJP’s moves are being viewed with suspicion by “secular” parties across the state’s political spectrum. Earlier this month, former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) founder HD Deve Gowda came out unequivocal against the BJP’s moves on the issue.

He said that it is impossible to implement a uniform civil code because of the widespread opposition to it across the country. “The constitution does not support it and I am personally against the uniform civil code,” he said.

The UCC as a poll board seems to have paid good dividends for the BJP in Gujarat which has a large Muslim population of around 10 per cent. On the other hand, Himachal with a relatively low minority component of around 4 percent seems to have remained unaffected by the premise of the UCC.

In Karnataka, Muslims constitute a good 14 per cent of the population and hold considerable influence in various coastal pockets as well as other regions of the state. The state has been fertile ground for right-wing Hindu and Muslim politics.

Several murders, along with hijab, halaal and finally the auto-rickshaw blast in Mangaluru, have recently drawn the battle lines between the two communities.

Whether it’s hijab, halal or love jihad, various incidents in Karnataka over the past year seem to be firmly setting the political agenda as the state inching closer to assembly polls in May 2023.

Facing an aggressive Congress that is seen as disrespectful to minority communities, the BJP is increasingly expected to push for a uniform civil code in the coming months.

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