According to two people familiar with the post-election developments, the Telugu Desam Party and the Janata Dal (United), key members of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, are against introducing a Uniform Civil Code.

The BJP’s proposed legislation aims to replace India’s personal laws that are based on religions, customs, and traditions with one common law for everyone, irrespective of such differentiations, making the UCC a political hot potato.

The party’s narrower electoral victory in the just-concluded Lok Sabha election makes it reliant on its allies more than earlier, even as BJP chief Narendra Modi is set to become India’s prime minister for a third consecutive term.

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The JD(U) does not favour any bill or legislation that may not align with sovereign principles, said a senior party leader, asking to remain anonymous due to potential risk to his ministerial candidacy in the next Union government.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, which permits Indian citizenship for certain persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, may also not be implemented in several states, the JD(U) leader said.

“We have just entered into the alliance for government-formation. So let things settle down first,” this politician said. “However, we want to make it very clear that the JD(U) will not support any legislation that may dishonour the social fabric of the country.”

K.C Tyagi, national spokesperson for the JD(U), added: “Our stand on the Uniform Civil Code remains unchanged. We still believe in consulting all stakeholders. Once the government is formed, we will call stakeholders consultation to discuss it further.”

A senior TDP politician said the UCC was not a priority for the party.

“Our manifesto is very clear. We have received the mandate for development and social welfare, and this will remain our top priority,” the TDP leader said, also asking not to be identified. “The UCC is not on our agenda.”

The TDP’s national spokesperson, Prof. Jyothsna Tirunagari, and the BJP’s national general secretary, Arun Singh, refused to comment on the issues. Queries emailed to JD(U)’s spokesperson and BJP president JP Nadda remained unanswered.

Cautious ahead of state elections

Political analysts say the BJP’s top brass, too, would not be looking to push the Uniform Civil Code bill under the present circumstances.

“Not only are the alliance partners expressing concerns, but discussions have also begun within the party cadre about the potential negative impact of implementing the Uniform Civil Code,” said political analyst Arvind Mohan.

“There is a growing sentiment that taking such a step could turn futile for the party (BJP) and result in the loss of seats in upcoming assembly elections,” Mohan said. 

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Elections are due later this year in Maharashtra and Haryana. In Maharashtra, a BJP-backed coalition is in government, while in Haryana, the BJP heads the administration.

In the Lok Sabha election, the BJP’s tally in Maharashtra dropped to nine, from 23 in the 2019 poll. Overall, the BJP and its allies secured seven seats in the state, while the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) comprising the Congress, the Shiv Sena (UBT) and the NCP (Sharad Pawar) won 30 of the state’s 48 Lok Sabha seats.

“The case of West Bengal and Assam is an eye-opener for the BJP. In these two states, the BJP had an edge over other parties, but in the final verdict, the arithmetic changed,” said Shivesh Garg, a political analyst. “The only reason for this shift was the announcement of the rollout of the CAA in West Bengal just before the polls.”

The government notified the rules for the Citizenship Amendment Act on 11 March, four years after the Bill was passed in Parliament and just a few days prior to the announcement of the Lok Sabha election dates.

Multiple attempts

The Uniform Civil Code seeks to establish a common law for marriage, divorce, inheritance of property, etc., which are governed by personal laws of each religion. 

The code also prohibits bigamy (marrying one person while still legally married to another) and polygamy (having multiple spouses simultaneously).

The BJP-ruled Uttarakhand became the first state in the country to implement a Uniform Civil Code after the Bill was passed by the state legislative house in February 2024, just a few months ahead of the Lok Sabha election.

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At the Union level, the Uniform Civil Code Bill was proposed twice, in November 2019 and March 2020, but withdrawn both times without introduction in Parliament. 

The Bill was also introduced as a Private Members’ Bill in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha four times, in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. However, all four Private Members’ Bills have now lapsed.

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