In an attempt to appeal to the Muslims in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has decided to provide 4.5% reservation for minorities within the 27% quota for other backward classes (OBCs).
The Union cabinet, which met on Thursday evening, took the decision that will pave way for quotas for minorities in government jobs and educational institutions.
Elections to the 403-member Uttar Pradesh (UP) assembly are likely to be announced in a day or two. Once the Election Commission of India announces the dates, the code of conduct will come into effect, preventing the government from making any major policy announcements.
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has been struggling to revive the prospects of the party that once dominated the state and now has just 22 seats in the assembly. Muslims, who constitute approximately 19% of the total population, are considered to be a determining factor in at least 40% of the assembly constituencies in the state.
Earlier in the day, during a brief discussion over the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, political parties, especially those from UP, made a strong pitch for a minority quota in the composition of the proposed nine-member anti-graft body. After lawmakers belonging to the Bahujan Samaj Party, which heads the government in UP, and the state opposition Samajwadi Party demanded the quota, the government acquiesced. It added a quota for minorities, along with scheduled castes, tribes and OBCs.
Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) are notified as minority communities under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.
The sub-quota will be notified by an executive order, to be issued on Thursday night itself, said a person familiar with the developments.
The decision is based on the recommendation of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities.
“The caste and communities of the said minorities, which are included in the central list of OBCs notified from time to time by the ministry of social justice and empowerment, shall be covered by the said sub-quota,” PTI quoted an official as saying.
During the mass contact programmes conducted by Gandhi in the central districts of UP, prominent Muslim Congress leaders such as Saleem Shervani had sought the general secretary’s intervention for expediting the move.
“Whether it’s politics or administration, Muslims don’t get their share,” said Fida Mohammed, an OBC Muslim leader of the Congress party from Balrampur district. “This is good move and I think it will consolidate the support of Muslims, who have already started tilting towards the Congress.”
Rashid Masood, a former SP leader, who recently joined the Congress, has said that he left SP because it did not support reservations for Muslims in the OBC quota.
PTI contributed to this story.