In its campaign for the Telangana Assembly polls, the BJP has repeatedly raised the issue of the existing Muslim reservation in the state, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah calling it “unconstitutional” while maintaining that it will be abolished if the BJP wins the election.
Addressing a poll rally at Jangaon on Monday, Shah said, “BJP is the party of Telangana people. When BJP forms government in Telangana we will abolish the unconstitutional 4% Muslim reservation.” He also repeated the BJP’s pledge to appoint a backward class (BC) leader as the CM if voted to power in the November 30 Assembly polls.
Last Saturday, in his speech at a rally in Gadwal, Shah promised to scrap religion-based reservation and increase the quota of Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) if the BJP clinches the election. He also accused the Congress and the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) of being “anti-BC” parties while claiming that only the BJP could benefit the backwards.
The party’s manifesto, titled “Sakala Janula Saubhagya Telangana (welfare of the people)”, says that it would remove “unconstitutional” religion-based reservation, including the 4% quota for Muslims, in government jobs and seats in state educational institutes. The Muslim quota would be redistributed to OBCs, SCs, and STs, the manifesto states, adding that the party will set up a committee to draft a UCC for the state.
Congress’s ‘Minority Declaration’
On November 9, the Telangana Congress released its “Minority Declaration” for the polls, promising to increase the state annual minority welfare budget to Rs 4,000 crore. The party also pledged to conduct the caste survey within six months of coming to power in the state.
The “Minority Declaration” stated that the Congress will ensure fair reservation for all backward classes, including minorities, in jobs, education and government schemes.
Stand of Congress, BRS, AIMIM
Soon after Shah first raked up the Muslim quota at a rally at Chevella on the outskirts of Hyderabad in April this year, the Congress as well as the BRS and the AIMIM accused him of “undermining” the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court before which the issue has been pending.
Senior Telangana Congress leader and ex-minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir has maintained that the 4% Muslim quota in jobs and education for socially and economically backward Muslims under the BC-E category is being implemented in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh based on the stay granted by the Supreme Court.
He has said that the 4% Muslim reservation – announced by the then Y S Rajashekar Reddy government after the Congress stormed to power in the united Andhra Pradesh in 2004 – encompasses only 14 socially and economically backward groups among Muslims, identified by a Backward Classes Commission without affecting the quota of other communities.
Shabbir has alleged that the BJP leaders have been attempting to “distort” these points to mislead the public and incite communal hatred.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi has charged that Shah’s remarks exposed the BJP’s “double standards”. “On the one hand, Prime Minister Naredra Modi talks of reaching out to backward Muslims like Pasmandas and, on the other, the Union Home Minister announces that they will cancel Muslim reservation,” he said.
What had the BJP to offer Telangana bar anti-Muslim “hate speeches”, Owaisi alleged, adding that the BJP-led Centre should instead amend laws to remove the overall 50% quota ceiling.
BRS spokesperson Ravula Sridhar Reddy said Shah’s statement was another sign that “the BJP is greedy to grab power by any means”. “Amit Shah has turned the Muslim quota into a religious issue. He does not know the difference between constitutional and unconstitutional quota because the 4% quota is constitutional and does not breach the 50% ceiling,” Reddy said.
In April 2017, in keeping with a poll promise, the BRS government led by Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao or KCR passed a Bill to increase quota for STs from 6% to 10%, and for Muslims from 4% to 12%, which would breach the 50% ceiling. But the Bill remains stuck as the Centre has not cleared it.