The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dual strategy for cow and civil code

New Delhi, April 9: The BJP has worked overtime to ensure a low turnout of its MPs when a private member’s Bill to amend the Constitution and legislate a common civil code is brought up in the Lok Sabha tomorrow.

At the same time, it has issued a whip to its MPs to be present when a private member’s resolution asking for a ban on cow slaughter is expected to be put to vote soon after the civil code Bill.

Sources said the dual strategy is because of political expediency, though both the Bill and the resolution were tabled by its own members — the first by Mahant Adityanath and the second by Prahlad Patel.

In the first case, the sources said, the BJP has reservations about the “practicality” of such a legislation and is in no mood to displease its allies and partners in the National Democratic Alliance.

But on the cow-slaughter ban, the party is out to score brownie points over the Congress, which is in a dilemma since Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh forced the issue on its national political agenda.

“A common civil code does not suit us because the Hindu personal law is itself riddled with complexities,” said a BJP functionary. “Besides, the tribal groups we are keen to bring into our fold have their own laws and, if we meddle too much, we may lose their support.”

As it has been deliberately kept out of the NDA’s agenda for governance along with issues like the Ram temple and Article 370, the BJP would not risk annoying its allies for the sake of a private member’s Bill, he added.

At the same time, sources said, a section of the BJP felt that the party should not be seen openly opposing the private legislation and “send the wrong signal to the cadre” who were “already confused over our constant flip-flop on Ayodhya”.

BJP strategists figured out that the only way out was to ensure that party MPs did not turn up in large numbers when the Bill is placed for discussion. They toyed with the idea of requesting Adityanath not to show up since Parliament would be in recess for a week from Friday, but he was reportedly determined to be present.

For any Bill to be passed, including a private member’s Bill, the rule stipulates that 50 per cent of the House would have to be present and vote and, of that strength, two-thirds would have to vote in its favour. “We are also banking on a low turnout in the Opposition,” sources said.

The cow-slaughter ban is “a different thing altogether”, the sources pointed out.

“Our campaign in Madhya Pradesh is going to revolve around it because we can sense the disquiet in the Congress. They have fallen between two stools. On the one hand, the chief minister wants to keep his pro-Hindu supporters happy, but, at the national level, the Congress does not want to annoy the minorities. We have no such problem.”

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