The Aam Aadmi Party in Gujarat is at loggerheads over its support to the UCC. Tribal leader resigns, state president says ‘strongly against it’

New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party’s “in principle” support to the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) proposed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Center has put the AAP in a tight spot not only in Punjab but also in Delhi, which it rules. Is. – but also in Gujarat, where it won five seats in the 2022 assembly elections with a vote share of around 13 per cent, ThePrint has learnt.

Party sources told ThePrint that both the state units have expressed displeasure over the central leadership’s decision to extend support to the UCC without consulting them.

The UCC, which aims to replace religion-based personal laws with uniform laws for all citizens, has become a contentious issue after Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitched for it in Bhopal last month.

While Punjab is a Sikh-majority state (57.69 percent of the population is Sikh, according to the 2011 census), tribals account for 14.75 percent of Gujarat’s population, according to state government records, mainly in 14 districts located in its eastern parts. are concentrated. Of the 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat, four are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs).

On 28 June, AAP’s national general secretary (organisation) and Rajya Sabha MP, Sandeep Pathak, was quoted by the media as saying “In principle, AAP stands with the UCC. Article 44 [of the Constitution], also supports UCC. However, we believe that the Center should arrive at a consensus on the issue by holding wide consultations with political and non-political stakeholders.

Article 44 of the Constitution states that the State shall endeavor to bring about a Uniform Civil Code in the country.

Party sources told ThePrint that on Monday, top leaders of AAP’s Gujarat unit, led by chief Isudan Gadhvi, met Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal at his Delhi residence.

Interestingly, the meeting took place on a day Praful Vasava, a prominent tribal face of the party in Gujarat, quit the AAP protesting its stand on the UCC.

In his resignation letter addressed to Kejriwal, Vasava, who had finished third in the race for Nandod constituency in last year’s assembly polls with 13.78 per cent vote share, attributed his decision to Pathak’s June 28 statement.

“of the country Aboriginal (Tribals) and other communities will support my decision as they believe that UCC is not in the national interest… On one hand, AAP promises to implement the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution, and on the other it has no Not guaranteed will protect UCC’s rights tribals, Then how can AAP extend its support to UCC?” Vasava wrote in the resignation letter, which ThePrint has seen.

The Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Indian Constitution deal with special provisions relating to administration and governance in the Scheduled or Tribal Areas across the country. During the Gujarat assembly elections, AAP had promised to implement the Fifth Schedule to protect the interests of tribals in the state if voted to power.

Speaking to ThePrint on Monday on the issue of UCC in tribal areas, Gadhvi said, “We strongly oppose it.”

“We are campaigning against the UCC in the tribal areas of Gujarat. We will strongly oppose any attempt to introduce UCC among tribals who follow different customs and laws. On the question of UCC among other communities, we will wait for the Centre’s draft. But one should not forget that it will also have an adverse effect on many communities following the Hindu faith.

The leader said, Gadhvi cited the example of some caste groups – including Maldharis, to which she belongs – who do not approach the courts for divorce.

“These are also caste groups in which women, even though they are a part, do not seek inheritance of property from their fathers. Maldhari, Ahir, Jain, Kshatriya follow different traditions. Most of Gujarat’s 146 caste groups will oppose the UCC,” Gadhvi said.

Commenting on Vasava’s ouster from the party, Gadhvi, who had finished second to BJP’s Mulu Iyer Bera in the 2022 Assembly polls on the Khambalia seat, said the tribal leader “took his decision in haste, as the AAP Will never betray the interests. Did tribals,

ThePrint also reached Sandeep Pathak over phone for his comment on the tribal leader’s resignation, but did not get a response till the time of publishing this report. The article will be updated upon receiving a response.

Read also: ‘Can’t force, need wider consultation’ – how opposition reacted to Modi’s UCC pitch

‘Detrimental to the interests of tribals’

The campaign against the UCC mentioned by Gadhvi above also appears to be linked to the public announcement made by its Dediapada (Gujarat) MLA Chaitar Vasava on Sunday, where he said he would resign from his seat if the party supported the UCC. Will consider, as he said. Prejudicial to the interests of tribals.

Chaitra Vasava, guided by seven-time MLA Chhotubhai Vasava, made the remarks during a meeting at the UCC on Sunday, which was attended by tribal leaders from 14 tribal-dominated districts of the state.

Party sources said the AAP is counting on Chaitar, who is also its legislature party leader in the state, to consolidate its hold among tribals, preventing party leaders from giving any “principle support” to the UCC going forward. have been instructed to abstain. ,

Incidentally, AAP had to deal with the UCC question even before the Gujarat assembly elections, when the ruling BJP announced the formation of a committee to draft a Uniform Civil Code for the state.

Commenting on the BJP’s move, Kejriwal had then cited Article 44, adding that “his intention is bad”.

“Article 44 of the Constitution clearly states that it is the responsibility of the government to frame the UCC. The government should prepare a UCC, but with the consent of all communities,” Kejriwal told the media after a rally on October 30 last year.

He had then alleged that the BJP had formed a similar committee before the assembly elections in Uttarakhand and after the victory that committee was nowhere to be seen.

Justice (retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai, who was heading the five-member Uttarakhand committee, reportedly said last week that they have completed their work and will soon submit a report to the state government. Meanwhile, CM Pushkar Singh Dhami was quoted in the media last week as saying that the state will implement the UCC in a constitutional manner after the committee submits its report.

In the context of Gujarat, Kejriwal had said, “Similarly, now they have formed a committee before the Gujarat elections. This committee will also disappear after the elections. If they really intend to introduce Uniform Civil Code, why not make one code which is applicable to the whole country. Are they waiting for the Lok Sabha elections to do so? They do not want to implement UCC. His intentions are bad.”

According to media reports, the state government is taking a legal opinion on whether the committee should be presented as a law or a resolution.

Opposition to AAP’s UCC support

Meanwhile, Sandeep Pathak’s statement on UCC has created a stir not only within the party in Gujarat, but also in Delhi and Punjab.

On June 28, when Pathak made the statement, what went unnoticed was that the same day, while speaking separately to the media in Uttar Pradesh, AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said, the draft UCC In its absence, the BJP was interested in “doing politics on the issue”.

“Which document do we support? Has the Prime Minister released any draft of the UCC? Singh had asked.

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann distanced himself from Pathak’s announcement, telling reporters on 5 July that “UCC was BJP’s agenda to divide people for electoral gains. AAP is a secular party and stands against any attempt to tamper with faiths.

Arguing against the UCC, Mann also underlined how the traditional practices of Sikhs differ from those of Hindus in matters of marriage and funerals.

AAP sources told ThePrint that Mann has made it abundantly clear in party circles that he will staunchly oppose the UCC.

“The reader’s comment was made in haste and was avoidable. It is common knowledge that any suggestion on UCC will meet stiff resistance in Punjab. Along with this, the party has made good inroads among the tribals in Gujarat. What purpose would be served by speaking in favor of the UCC, which does not even exist? It is a trap set by the BJP,” said a senior AAP leader on condition of anonymity.

Following Pathak’s statement, the Aam Aadmi Party also faced sharp criticism from the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Congress in Punjab. While the Congress took a dig at AAP, asking whether AAP had “special access to the draft UCC”, the SAD accused it of “double talk”.

(Editing by Richa Mishra)

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