M A I N   N E W S

Put minority sub-quota on hold in poll-bound states, EC tells Centre
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, January 11
As the debate over reservation for minorities escalated today, the Election Commission directed the UPA government to put on hold its decision to carve out a 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities from within the 27 per cent quota for OBCs in the five poll-bound states.

In a late night order, the commission said though the government had taken this decision on December 22 before the model code of conduct came into force, it had asked the Ministry of Personnel and Training not to go ahead with its implementation till the election process in the states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur was over.

The EC’s order comes a day after it issued a show-cause notice to Law Minister Salman Khurshid, following a complaint from the BJP, for promising to double the quota for minorities to nine per cent while addressing a public rally in his wife Lousie Khurshid’s constituency Farrukhabad.

While the BJP was quick to accuse the Congress of dividing the country ideologically on the basis of caste and religion, Khurshid was unfazed.

Defending his speech, Khurshid, who also heads the Minority Affairs Ministry, said he had not appealed for votes in the name of religion and that he had instead spoken of backward minorities among OBCs. Stating that this has been the Congress’ policy, he said, it was mentioned in its 2004 election manifesto. The minister explained that the nine per cent sub-quota he had mentioned in his speech was meant specifically for Uttar Pradesh and that he had every right to speak about his party’s programmes in his election speeches.

Although the government maintains its move on sub-quotas for minorities was not aimed at any specific religious group, it was fairly evident that the Congress had an eye on the crucial Muslim vote bank in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections given the hurried manner in which the Cabinet approved the move just two days before the election schedule was announced.

The move has predictably put the proverbial cat among the pigeons. The Congress believes it has set the agenda for the UP elections by shifting the focus from the Lokpal debate to reservation and forcing other political parties to react. The BJP was quick to cry foul as it accused the Congress of indulging in vote bank politics by playing the Muslim card. In its effort to counter the Congress, the BJP had taken recourse to social engineering with the induction of tainted former BSP Health Minister Babu Singh Kushwaha as part of its strategy to woo OBCs by underlining the loss in their quota once the sub-quota for minorities was carved out. As it happened, the Kushwaha episode boomeranged on the BJP.





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