Desperate Congress to try old trick in Maharashtra: Quota for Muslims
With Assembly elections later this year, Sharad Pawar has also batted for reservation for Muslims along with the earlier proposal for a quota for Marathas.
Plans to provide reservation for Muslims in jobs and education in Maharashtra have been in the pipeline for some months now, and the rising sense of desperation in the ruling Congress-NCP combine appears set to push the decision through just months before the state goes to polls.
Apparently nudged along by Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has in principle okayed 4.5 percent reservation for Muslims in education and government jobs, said a report in The Indian Express.
The issue was expected to have been taken up during the just concluded Assembly session of the Maharashtra legislature but the government appeared to be still completing the fine print. It could now be announced along with the earlier proposal for a quota for Marathas, as recommended by the Narayan Rane Committee. The law and judiciary department of the Maharashtra government is said to be working on the legal framework of the two additional quotas to be rolled out.
While the Mahmood ur-Rehman committee proposed 8 percent reservation for Muslims and the Rane committee had proposed a 20 percent quota for Marathas, the government is likely to announce 4.5 percent and 12 percent quotas respectively.
The report quoted government sources as saying the announcement could come as soon as after the state cabinet meeting later this week.
Neighbouring Karnataka has already extended reservation for Muslims in jobs and education. The NCP had included it in their poll manifesto and has also raised the issue in the state legislature.
The Mehmood-ur-Rehman Committee has recommended an 8 percent to 10 percent reservation in education and jobs, plus a separate 10 percent reservation for Muslim women. The committee was set up in 2008 to study economic and social backwardness among Muslims in Maharashtra.
Only last week, Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Maharashtra, Hussain Dalwai had made a pitch for reservation for Muslims in Maharashtra. In a press release, he had said it would be a blunder to provide reservation to the Marathas and ignore the demands of the Muslims. "Financial and educational condition of the Muslim community is worse than that of the have-nots among the Marathas," Dalwai had said.
About 78 percent of all child labour belongs to the Muslim community, he had said, also pointing to the low representation of Muslims in government jobs.
In contrast, the Marathas are a politically powerful community " to a community that is lagging behind in the society.
Needless to say, the Sena-BJP are expected to hotly oppose the announcement as politically expedient and motivated.
The decision comes just before senior Congress leaders from the Centre will visit Maharashtra to ascertain the views of the MLAs regarding the debacle in the Lok Sabha election and the party's prospects in the October Assembly polls. The beleaguered chief minister, against whom several MLAs have petitioned the high command, is said to have got a reprieve, for now at least, with a final decision on any possible change of guard left for after the Central team's visit and its report.
As reported by Firstpost, Chavan reportedly told the Congress high command during a visit to New Delhi last week that continued uncertainty over the impending change of guard will hurt the party's prospects in the election.
However, a report in The Economic Times said the Congress faces another complication even if it decides to replace the CM -- the CM-aspirants who are left out could trigger more dissidence.
Meanwile, countering wild speculation and rumours that the Congress, with no strong alternative to Chavan, may have asked Sharad Pawar to lead the combine in the coming election, the chief minister is reported to have said no such offer was made.
Pawar, who met AK Antony and Sonia GAndhi's political secretary Ahmed Ahmed Patel recently, had told journalists that he had been asked to lead the alliance into the polls.
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