New Delhi: Days after Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) Rajya Sabha MP, Sandeep Pathak, said his party “in principle” supported a Uniform Civil Code, AAP leader and Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann slammed the Narendra Modi government for allegedly raising religious issues for electoral gain.
He asserted that AAP is a secular party and has no intention to tinker with the social customs of any community. Mann’s remarks have now raised questions as to what is the actual stand of the party on the issue. His comments also drew a sharp reaction from the Akali Dal, which demanded AAP clearly spell out its stance.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, July 4, he likened India to a bouquet of flowers, with a different colour of flower representing different customs of a community. “Should there be only one colour in a bouquet?” he asked, according to NDTV.
He also said that every religion has its own culture and customs, so there is a need to build a consensus. “I don’t know why they are tinkering with these customs. Don’t break down communities into tribes,” he said in Punjabi.
He also went on to say that those supporting the Uniform Civil Code say it will make everyone socially equal. “Will everyone be socially equal? No. There are so many downtrodden people, they are not getting opportunities,” he said.
Mann accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of raking up the issue only with an eye on the 2024 General Election. “The AAP does not tinker with such practices, AAP is a secular party, we just want the country to become Number 1,” he said.
Mann’s statements contradict that of his party’s MP, Sandeep Pathak. The latter had said last week, “In principle, we support a Uniform Civil Code. The Constitution’s Article 44 also supports it. But since this issue concerns all religious communities, there should be wide-ranging consultations and efforts to build consensus.”
Meanwhile, Mann’s statements drew a sharp reaction from Akali Dal, which accused AAP of “double-speak on the sensitive issue”. “The Punjab CM @BhagwantMann should now tell AAP Convener @ArvindKejriwal to clearly spell out (the) party’s stand on UCC & end AAP’s doublespeak on this sensitive issue. It is shocking that AAP wants to vote in favour of UCC in Rajya Sabha even as Bhagwant Mann is befooling Punjabis by asserting that party is against it in Punjab,” Akali Dal leader Daljit S Cheema tweeted along with a video statement.
The Punjab CM @BhagwantMann should now tell AAP Convener @ArvindKejriwal to clearly spell out party ‘s stand on UCC & end AAP’s double speak on this sensitive issue. It is shocking that AAP wants to vote in favour of UCC in Rajya Sabha even as Bhagwant Mann is befooling Punjabis… pic.twitter.com/PKaTuEaus0
— Dr Daljit S Cheema (@drcheemasad) July 4, 2023
Sikhs account for 60% of Punjab’s population. Several Sikh leaders and organisations have been accusing the BJP for long that it is trying to “distort” the Sikh history and culture as part of a larger Hindutva push.
Last year, the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which controls gurdwaras in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, also issued a statement against a Uniform Civil Code. The statement said a UCC goes against the interest of the country. The SGPC is dominated by Akali Dal members, who are on a collision course with Mann’s government in Punjab. They sense a political opportunity in the form of UCC and how AAP responds to the issue.