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Friday 23 December 2011

With eye on UP, Cabinet clears 4.5% quota for minorities; BJP cries foul

With eye on UP, Cabinet clears 4.5% quota for minorities; BJP cries foul

New Delhi:  The Election Commission is expected to announce dates for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls today. Hours before that, the Congress played a political ace, with the Union Cabinet clearing a 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities, under the 27 per cent quota reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), in a Thursday night decision.
In Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress is aggressively trying to be number 1 again, the party has its eye on what had been a traditional votebank for many years, the Muslim voter. Rahul Gandhi, who has charge of resurrecting the party in the crucial state said, has travelled wide quoting the Sachar Committee report which says the Muslim community needs special attention. During a recent election tour of UP, Mr Gandhi said, "The Muslim community is the poorest and we are a party that takes everyone together on the path of development...We will bring a quota for them."
And here it is. Announced just before the model code of conduct kicks in with the announcement of election dates, the Congress will be hoping that this will be a key differentiator. The quota gives the Muslims and other minorities reservation in government jobs and admission to central educational institutions effective last night.
A significant 18.5 per cent of the UP electorate is Muslim and the Congress faces a tough contest from the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in the tussle for that vote.
For the Samajwadi Party, this will be a blow. The Muslim vote forms a big part of Mulayam Singh Yadav's electoral agenda as he makes another desperate bid to win back the state. The party has been making all-out efforts to wrest back the Muslim vote and championing a separate quota has been part of that effort.
Then there is UP Chief Minister Mayawati, who hopes to grab that chair a fourth time, twice in succession. Mayawati plays the caste card with aplomb and along with her wooing of the Dalit and Brahmin vote, is doing her bit to try and grab the Muslim vote as well. Prominent by her side is Naseemuddin Siddiqui, a minister who, with more than 12 portfolios, is second only to her in the power that he wields.

Caught unawares, the BJP, which is also trying to better its political condition in UP, has cried foul. The party's Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "The BJP will strongly oppose such a move taken by the government which is based on caste system."
The Congress shrugs and points out that it is merely fulfilling a promise made in its manifesto.

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