Row over 4.5 percent sub-quota for minorities

New Delhi: A political row erupted over Centre`s decision to fix a 4.5 per cent share for minorities within the existing 27 per cent OBC reservation with BJP and ally JD(U) firmly opposing it while Samajwadi party and CPI-M said this quota was just "tokenism" and demanded an increase.

The ruling Congress on its part welcomed the decision taken by the Union Cabinet, saying it was a "praiseworthy" step and that the party was only fulfilling a promise given in its manifesto for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

The decision, which would benefit all minorities listed as Other Backward Classes(OBC), was taken yesterday ahead of the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.

BJP leader Anant Kumar said the quota-within-a-quota for government jobs and university seats is "wrong" and that the party will oppose the decision.

"Backward classes need to be empowered. They should get social justice. We are not in favour of this move. We are against this," he said.

Kumar`s party colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "The BJP will strongly oppose such a move taken by the government which is based on caste system."

Samajwadi supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav said the Cabinet decision was nothing but "deception" and demanded that minorities should get at least 18 per cent reservation.

He rejected suggestions that his demand was a political stunt.

"At least 18 per cent reservation should be given. 4.5 per cent means nothing. It should be done according to the population of minorities. This is deception," the former UP Chief Minister, who is making a strong bid to woo Muslims to regain power, told reporters.

Muslims account for 18 per cent of UP`s estimated 200 million population and hold the key in nearly a fifth of its assembly constituencies.

The CPI(M) said the sub-quota was "most inadequate" and "tokenism", and sought a constitutional amendment to implement 15 per cent reservation for minorities.

Congress leader Digvijay Singh said Congress had promised reservation for OBC Muslims in its election manifesto for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

"That promise has been fulfilled," he said.

"Granting separate quota to Muslims is a praiseworthy step of the Central Government", Union Minister for Steel Beni Prasad Verma said in Lucknow.

In a statement, the CPI(M) Politburo said, "The UPA government has taken this step which smacks of tokenism and has been resorted to keeping the Uttar Pradesh elections in view."

It said the decision does not reflect the main recommendation of the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission Report.

The Commission had recommended implementation of 10 per cent reservation for Muslims and five per cent for other minorities based on the socially and economically backward criteria.

"To enable this, necessary constitutional amendment should be undertaken," the CPI(M) said.

CPI-M General Secretary Prakash Karat said the sub-quota was not good enough and would not benefit the minorities a lot.

The response of JD(U), a key NDA ally, was articulated by its national spokesman Shivanand Tiwari, who wanted the decision to be withdrawan.

Tiwari described the decision as "unfortunate"and criticised Congress for bolstering the strength of `Hindutva` and trying to break the standing social alliance between OBCs and minorities for "garnering votes in UP assembly polls."

Ram Vilas Paswan`s Lok Janshakti Party(LJP) supported the Cabinet decision.

Paswan, the chief of LJP, said, "The government has not followed a policy of appeasement. This is something that should have been done a long time ago. Even if the government has announced this very close to elections in 5 states, there is nothing wrong with it."