It's an election stunt, says SP; biggest betrayal, says Peace Party

The UPA government's decision to fix 4.5 per cent minority quota within the 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes evoked mixed reactions in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims account for 18 per cent of the population and have a decisive influence over the outcome in 110 to 115 seats.

Describing the decision as a “gift from the UPA government,” Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma said it would “make the Samajwadi Party and Mulayam Singh irrelevant [in the coming Assembly elections].”

On a day's visit here in connection with a national conference on the steel sector, Mr. Verma told journalists that Mr. Singh would be wiped out, Chief Minister and BSP president Mayawati's tally in the Vidhan Sabha would be reduced to half and the next government in U.P. would be that of the Congress. Denying that he and Mr. Singh were once comrade-in-arms, Mr. Verma said he “was with Ram Manohar Lohia and Chaudhary Charan Singh and Mulayam Singh also came in; he was never with Mulayam Singh.”

But SP leader Mohammad Azam Khan has dismissed the UPA government's move and has instead demanded reservation for the minority community as per their population.

The SP termed it an election stunt of the Congress-led UPA government. A party spokesman has demanded quota in accordance with their population.

Mayawati's stand

Last week, Chief Minister Mayawati, while addressing the BSP's Muslim-Kshatriya-Vaishya convention here had supported reservation for Muslims but demanded a national reservation policy and increasing the 27 per cent quota for the OBCs for giving reservation to backward religious minorities.

The Peace Party, which has of late emerged as a potential threat to the SP, the BSP and the Congress in respect of Muslim votes, has described the decision as the “biggest betrayal of Muslims since Independence.”

“The [backward] Muslims were already getting 3 per cent share in the 27 per cent OBC quota, now they will have to compete with the other minorities in the 4.5 per cent quota,” said Yusuf Ansari, national general secretary of the Peace Party.

A prominent religious leader and the Imam of Lucknow's Aishbagh Idgah, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, welcomed the decision and said it was a belated step in the right direction. The Maulana, who is a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and director of the Islamic Centre of India, said “though the 4.5 per cent quota for the minorities was a welcome move, Muslims should be given reservation according to their population.” Maulana Rasheed said Muslims had been demanding 8 to 9 per cent reservation.

Zafaryab Jilani, executive member of the AIMPLB, said a positive step had been taken, but demanded 9 per cent quota for backward Muslims.