Before the announcement of the dates for Assembly elections, the ruling BJP government in Gujarat seems to have played a crucial political bet on Saturday by announcing the formation of a committee to study various aspects on the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code.
During a conversation with IANS, Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Parshottam Rupala, said that this decision should not be linked to the election strategy, terming it a ‘historic decision’ taken in the national interest.
Rupala, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, spoke on a range of issues including the decision of the Gujarat government on UCC, the entry of Aam Aadmi Party in state Assembly elections and its aggressive campaign, and the prospects of the Congress.
Here are some excerpts from the conversation:
Q: Many questions are being raised regarding the timing of Gujarat government’s decision to form a committee on Uniform Civil Code. Why this decision was taken at this time when the Assembly elections are so close?
A: The discussion should be on whether this decision is right or wrong. Is there any mistake in the initiative to make Uniform Civil Code which has been started by the Gujarat government… discussion should be on this matter. The country needed this for a very long time. Congratulations to the Gujarat government that they have started working on this. This is not a political but a historical decision taken under national policy.
Q: But how will the Uniform Civil Code be implemented in the state?
A: It is clear in the decision of the Gujarat government itself that a committee will be formed under the chairmanship of a retired high court judge. This committee will give its recommendations to the state government after in-depth deliberation on all aspects of the Constitution, Law and Uniform Civil Code of India. On those recommendations, the state government will try to make it legal.
Q: But your opponents say that the Aam Aadmi Party tried to snatch the issue of Hindutva from the BJP by demanding to put the picture of Lakshmi-Ganesh on the currency notes, in response to which the BJP government had to take this decision.
A: This decision is not politically motivated in any way. It is neither in favour of Hindu nor in favour of Muslim. This is not a decision taken in favour or against anyone, but to make everyone equal. It should not be confused with election strategy.
Q: What will you say on the stance of the opposition parties?
A: The opposition parties are not concerned about national interest and national policy but they are more concerned about their vote bank. That is why they are doing such things to please a particular section. I challenge the opposition parties to clarify their stance and tell in whose favour this decision is. Is it in favour of Hindus or in favour of Muslims or in favour of all? This is a decision to strengthen national policy and democracy. My appeal to all the opposition parties is that everyone should support it in the national interest.
Q: BJP is in power continuously since 1995 in Gujarat. In the earlier elections, the main contest of AAP has been with the Congress, but this time the Congress seems to be calm and the Aam Aadmi Party is campaigning very aggressively. In such a situation, with whom is going to be the main contest of BJP this time in Gujarat — Congress or AAP?
A: It will not be fair to say that Congress has has been finished in Gujarat. Congress will remain as the main opposition party here and as far as AAP is concerned, it has already contested elections in other states by talking big…. This is AAP’s election strategy and it is fighting accordingly but Congress will remain as main opposition party in the state.
Q: But you are also going to announce the name of the chief ministerial candidate in Gujarat.
A: In a democracy, everyone has the right to declare his/her candidate.
Q: According to you, what is going to be the biggest issue in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly elections this time?
A: People have seen how our governments (in state as well as Centre) are continuously working in the interest of Gujarat and the country. That is why this time also, the people of Gujarat are going to vote to form the BJP government in the state, putting their stamp on the agenda of development.
Q: How many seats BJP is going to win this time?
A: It is certain that this time by winning the maximum number of seats till now, BJP is going to form the government once again with a thumping majority in the state.