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Prior to the Indian elections, Modi’s BJP promises a common civil code

NEW DELHI: One week ahead of the country’s general election, the ruling party of India promised on Sunday to enact a new national civil code, citing it as a critical step toward gender equality.

Beginning on April 19, nearly a billion Indians will cast ballots in six weeks of parliamentary elections to choose a new government, making this the world’s largest democratic exercise. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reelection under the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) banner is widely considered by analysts to be inevitable.

Reiterating its position on a uniform civil code (UCC), which would harmonize laws for private affairs like marriage, divorce, and inheritance across faiths and religious communities, the BJP launched its manifesto on Sunday, delving into a contentious debate.

Using Modi’s preferred name for the nation, the party’s manifesto stated that it “believes that there cannot be gender equality till such time Bharat adopts a uniform civil code, which protects the rights of all women.” The 1.4 billion people who live in India are governed by a single criminal code, but there are differences in the customs of various communities and religions when it comes to personal issues like marriage, divorce, and inheritance.

Depending on the code they belong to, women’s rights differ significantly. For example, Muslim daughters are only entitled to a portion of any male heir’s inheritance, while Hindu sons and daughters are theoretically entitled to equal inheritance rights. Several conservative politicians, judges, and reformers have advocated for a code that would apply to all Indians equally, calling these custom-based laws regressive.

Fears of Muslims

However, a lot of communities, especially Muslims, see a UCC as an assault on their identity and a violation of India’s secular constitution, and they fear it would intrude on their religious laws. The BJP targeted Muslim women voters by emphasizing that its 76-page manifesto shielded them from the “barbaric” practice of “instant divorce,” even though the manifesto made no explicit mention of Islam or Hinduism.

The BJP’s appeal to Hindu nationalism has made it difficult for India’s opposition parties to compete over the past ten years, and the slogan “Modi ki Guarantee,” or “Modi’s guarantee,” was prominently displayed on the manifesto cover. Under the BJP’s leadership, India’s GDP has surpassed that of the former colonizer Britain, making it the world’s fastest-growing major economy. The party’s immense popularity has also been fueled by a number of focused welfare initiatives.

The party promised to continue funding a well-liked cash handout program for the nation’s farmers and said it would keep its focus on those who were voted back for the next five years. It also reiterated its commitment to free ration and electricity initiatives. It also promised to build more reasonably priced homes and extend a government-sponsored free healthcare program for the elderly. “We will bring our country into the top three economies in the world within the next five years,” Modi declared, announcing that it would “launch a final and decisive assault against poverty.- AFP

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