Nagpur: Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday ruled out reservation for Muslims on religious grounds citing various Supreme Court and high court rulings while telling the legislative assembly that his government had done much more for minorities, especially Muslims, in three-and-a-half years than previous governments.

The chief minister’s statement came in response to claims made by Muslim legislators across parties that the BJP-led government had deliberately denied 5% quota to Muslims, which was granted by the previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government in 2014.

Fadnavis said Bombay high court had upheld reservation in educational institutions for Muslims but rejected quota in jobs in 2014 when it struck down an ordinance issued by the Congress-NCP government giving 16% quota to Marathas and 5% quota to Muslims.

“We have asked the high court for its opinion and that case is still on," Fadnavis said, adding that several rulings by the Supreme Court and the High Court had debarred governments from giving quota to Muslims on the religious grounds.

“This is a constitutional matter. But we have done much more than what the quota could provide. Students from the minority communities are getting a 50% subsidy on fees for all courses, including the medical science. It is our government that has given reservation to the Muslim sub-caste of khaatik (butchers). Compare the budget allocated to the minorities during the previous government’s rule and this government and you will see a substantial increase. We have done everything that is permitted within the framework of the Constitution for the minorities though this government does not differentiate between majority and minority," Fadnavis said.

Senior Samajwadi Party (SP) legislator Abu Azmi said the earnestness with which the government was working to ensure quota for the Marathas and Dhangars (shepherd caste) did not extend to the Muslim quota. The government could have re-issued the ordinance promulgated by the previous government in December 2014 to protect 5% quota but it did not do so, he said.

Azmi quoted a number of studies and reports by experts, including the Sachar Committee recommendations, to claim that despite the findings by experts about the backwardness of Muslims, the state government had done nothing to improve their lot.

Fadnavis countered this by asking Azmi why the previous Congress-led governments at the Centre and in the state had not implemented the recommendations of the Sachar Committee. “When did the Sachar Committee submit its report? Why weren’t the recommendations accepted and acted upon then? If the previous governments sat on those recommendations for years, why are you painting them as the messiah of Muslims and the BJP as anti-Muslim?" Fadnavis asked Azmi.

The chief minister said even the 5% quota granted by the previous Congress-NCP government did not cover the entire Muslim community and only granted reservation to some 50 sub-castes among the Muslims. “We have given quota to all these sub-castes and added some more," he said.

Senior Congress legislator Mohammed Arif Naseem Khan said the government could have re-issued the ordinance before it expired and included more Muslim sub-castes. “I accept we were a bit late in doing it but now you have the opportunity to grant the quota to Muslims and we will congratulate you if you do it," Khan said.

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