The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP in common code challenge

Chennai, July 27: Shrugging off initial hesitation, the BJP leadership today spoke out on the need for a uniform civil code as underscored by the Supreme Court and called for the widest possible national debate.

The BJP emphasised the participation of Opposition parties — most of which are ill at ease discussing a common civil code — in such a debate.

All citizens, political parties, religious leaders and elected representatives should join the national debate to crystallise opinion on a common civil code, BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu told a news conference here. “Those opposing the code will only be doing a disservice to the nation.”

“The Congress should respond positively. It is not an election issue at all for the BJP, but an issue of national integration,” Naidu said. He asked the Congress and the Left parties to “shed their pseudo-secularist approach, narrow vote-bank politics… (and) come forward to join the cause of national integration”.

Most Opposition parties, including the Congress, feel that an overdrive on a common civil code will alienate sections of the minority communities and deepen divisions within the country.

The BJP high command had kept its opinion to itself after the Supreme Court nudged the government on the common code last week with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani saying: “I am part of the government and, therefore, it will not be proper on my part to make a statement.” Only party spokesman V.K. Malhotra had stated that it was on the BJP’s agenda and hoped all parties would accept the apex court’s direction.

Naidu today said the law commission could evolve a common civil code, taking into consideration all aspects of the multi-faceted issue and involving all sections of the people, which could be discussed in Parliament. But he added that the BJP “is in no hurry” to bring a legislation now as the NDA does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha.

Enactment of a common code is in accordance with the mandate of the Constitution, the directive of the Supreme Court and the requirement of a modern and nationalistic polity, Naidu said. “We have to create a public opinion in this regard.”

He said it was an “irony” that any plea for the code is dubbed “communal”. He found the attempt of some parties to link this issue to “Muslim security or insecurity” as “absurd”.

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