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Cautious BJP looks to allies & opponents

New Delhi, July 23: The Sangh parivar today reacted variously to the Supreme Court call for a common civil code.

The BJP was cautiously optimistic but those at the Centre were extremely guarded. The RSS demanded that the Opposition spell out its stand while the Vishwa Hindu Parishad ordered the government to legislate a code.

The common strand running through their responses was if the political establishment and Muslims made it incumbent on the VHP to honour a court verdict on Ayodhya, why could they not respect the Supreme Court and accept a law for a common civil code'

The suggestion was Ayodhya alone could not be a matter of law and a personal civil code a matter of faith and, therefore, such “double-standards” would not be brooked.

Asked for his comment, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani said: “I am part of the government and, therefore, it will not be proper on my part to make a statement.”

Although a common civil code was part of the BJP’s Hindutva package — along with the Ram temple and abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir — it was kept out of the common agenda of governance on grounds that it was “contentious”.

The government, which somehow managed to extricate itself from the Ayodhya tangle, is unlikely to get into another knotty issue close to the polls, BJP sources said.

For the record, the BJP said it would try to convince its allies and the Opposition on the need to legislate a common civil code for two reasons. One, it was already enshrined in Article 44 and did not entail an amendment; and two, it could be enacted with a simple majority.

Briefing the media, BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra said: “We hope that all parties… will accept the Supreme Court’s direction. It was on the BJP’s agenda. No country has two sets of civil code except India. If a common criminal law is accepted, why object to a uniform civil code'”

Malhotra said the issue would be placed before the NDA when it met next. But he appeared more interested in scoring brownie points against the Congress.

“All the time the Congress says there should be no legislation on Ayodhya, only a court verdict should be respected. But here they want to reject the SC’s advice. If the Congress has faith in human rights and Constitution, it should accept the SC observation.”

The VHP pitched its demand much higher with Acharya Giriraj Kishore asking: “What is Ayodhya' It is also a matter of faith for us but they (Muslims) want us to abide by the court verdict. If they cannot accept a common civil code, why don’t they follow their own criminal code as well, which have harsher provisions'”

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