Karnataka BJP's UCC, NRC Promise May Not Reap Dividends, But Can Polarise Voters

Implementation of UCC and NRC in Karnataka may not be practical for the BJP, say Opposition leaders.


The BJP in Karnataka has promised to implement Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and carry out National Register of Citizens (NRC) in its manifesto released on 1 May. What does the party stand to gain and what does it lose because of these promises?

According to different political players in Karnataka, including those from the Congress and JD(S), UCC and NRC can only polarise the electorate. But the move need not yield the results the BJP seems to be aiming for especially in constituencies where the party may also need Muslim votes.


What’s Promised vs What Can Be Implemented

According to the election manifesto, if voted to power, the BJP will set up a high-level committee to study the UCC and implement the same in the state. Also, the BJP government will implement NRC, as promised by the Central government in 2020, the manifesto reads.

According to political parties in the Opposition, the promises ring hollow as neither can be implemented without wide-ranging consultations and study. Speaking to The Quint, Congress leader UT Khader said:

“For four and half years they were in power in Karnataka. Why did they not implement UCC and NRC during that time. The manifesto mentioning these right now just shows that the BJP has already accepted defeat in Karnataka. They have no pro-people plans only a plan for polarisation and division.”
UT Khader

Other Muslims voices in the Congress too said the saffron party has no intention to fulfil their promises. “For implementation of UCC, there should at least be a draft. There is no draft which everyone across the country or the state have agreed upon,” senior Congress leader K Rahman Khan told The Quint.

The JD(S) too has called the BJP’s 'bluff.' “Except for Assam, the NRC has not yet been implemented anywhere. Could the BJP not have implemented the NRC in any state where they have been in power for the last eight years? Raking up this issue in Karnataka is only a tactic to polarise the voters. It won’t work in Karnataka,” senior JD(S) leader Tanveer Ahmed told The Quint. As the BJP had not showed any interest in NRC during the four years the party has been in power in the Centre, the manifesto in Karnataka is only an attempt to test waters, other political leaders said.

According to Tanveer Ahmed, the UCC too cannot be implemented in either Karnataka or elsewhere in India because religious traditions including that of the Hindus cannot be restricted to the confines of one law. "From marriage to death there different ceremonies, laws and religious practices sanctioned by laws of different religions. All this cannot be brought within the ambit of one law," Ahmed said. Another state where the BJP had promised UCC was Himachal Pradesh. However, the promise made before 2022 Assembly elections did not yield results as the party did not manage to come to power.

"There is no indication that in a diverse state like Karnataka the UCC can be implemented," Rahman Khan said. Will the promise help BJP in the state?

Won't Help Constituencies Where Muslim Voters Influence Elections

As the Congress and JD(S) have steered clear of responding to polarising statements from the BJP, Karnataka elections have not seen many communally charged speeches. Even in coastal Karnataka, where the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had earlier issued statements on hijab, decibel levels have been low. In Coastal Karnataka, opinion polls have predicted loss for the BJP and advantage for the Congress.

The rare exception was BJP leader KS Eshwarappa who said that the BJP does not want Muslim votes in the state. According to Congress and JD(S) leaders, however, the BJP does bank on Muslim votes in some constituencies.

“There are BJP leaders who have visited Muslim religious places to cater to their constituents. There are those who have good equations with Muslim outfits because they need their votes too,” a JD(S) leader said.

In Chickpet constituency, BJP leader Uday Garudachar is accepted even by some Muslim constituents who had voted him to power in 2018, leaders across party lines told The Quint. "Someone like Garudachar does need the votes of Muslims. The BJP leadership in the Centre has made this almost impossible," a Karnataka politician said. Will the BJP manifesto backfire? "The overall image and ideology which the BJP projects on the national front does not work in Karnataka and the leaders here know that very well. They will be trying to get each vote they can get in Karnataka," a Congress politician said.

The Congress' position on the NRC and UCC promise has been to remain silent. "We just have to ignore their tactics of polarisation for the next 13 days," a Congress leader laughed, as the polling is scheduled for 10 May and the counting is scheduled for 13 May.

This election will be fought on an agenda of development, the Congress hopes. Meanwhile, the JD(S) has also been campaigning for all 224 seats in the state Assembly.

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