While Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the BJP president was only trying to deny quota rights to Other Backward Castes (OBC) and Dalits, SP’s Udaiveer Singh said minority quotas will not work without Constitutional amendment.
“Anything which needs to be done has to be within Constitutional parameters. But BJP wants to deny rights to OBCs and Dalits,” Surjewala said.
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In private, however, Congress leaders admit it cannot do much especially in view of Supreme Court guidelines. The Supreme Court has put a slab of 50% reservation, in which UPA-II had carved out a 4.5% sub quota for minorities from the 27% reserved for OBCs. This was subsequently struck down by courts.
SP’s Udaiveer Singh said: “Last time in 2012 we had promised 18% reservation to minorities, but it couldn't be implemented without a Constitutional amendment. This time around in our manifesto, we have not mentioned about any reservation for minorities, but we aim to increase opportunities for them.”
Singh said the SP is committed to upliftment of minorities “within given laws and constitutional framework”.
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Both parties had earlier committed to minority quotas but are silent at the hustings this time. Uttar Pradesh has about 18% Muslim population and it’s a decisive vote bank particularly for the SP-Congress alliance.
Bahujan Samajwadi Party, the other major player in UP, said it has never committed to minority reservation as it is not constitutionally possible.
“We have advocated for reservation on economic lines. And when we come to power, we believe in giving equal representation to all, cutting across caste and communal lines,” BSP spokesperson MH Khan said.
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The Constitution explicitly prohibits any discrimination on the basis of religion and guarantees equality of opportunity in matters of public employment, but has incorporated special provisions for quotas for historically oppressed classes.
The BJP was put into a tight corner on reservation recently when RSS publicity chief Manmohan Vaidya spoke out against reservation. A similar comment by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had hit BJP’s chances in the Bihar elections.