Published On:05 June 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Congress hasn’t learnt its lesson on minority sub-quotas folly

By Venky Vembu

For those with the wisdom to learn their lessons, a discreet word is all it takes to induce course correction. For the cussed fool who persists in his folly, even a lengthy tome is insufficient to impart wisdom.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court’s rejection of the UPA government’s introduction of 4.5 percent sub-quota for religious minorities within the 27 percent reservation for Other Backward Classes is only the latest stinging rebuke to the government for its regressive move. But it appears that the Congress hasn’t quite learnt its lessons from this and earlier mortifying experience.

A Division Bench of the court ruled that the Centre had acted in a “casual manner” and that the Office Memorandum (OM) creating the sub-quota was based on religious grounds and not on any other intelligible consideration. There was no rationale or empirical data to justify the policy action, it noted.

The sub-quota provision for “socially and educationally backward” classes belonging to religious minorities was introduced in December 2011, with an eye on the Muslim vote ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in February this year, and the Congress made it one of its principal campaign themes in the State.  For its exertions, the party earned a slap on the wrist by the Election Commission, which had warned that the appeal, grounded in religious affiliation, violated the model code of conduct.

Even so, Law Minister Salman Khurshid kept up that campaign theme, and went so far as to dare the Election Commission to “hang” him for his crime. As Firstpost had noted (here), Khurshid’s grandstanding bore the mark of a man who had “lost himself  in the Muslim ghetto” – a disturbing slide for a leader who  had once held principled views against Muslims playing the politics of identity.

For all his troubles, the campaign back-fired on the Congress. Muslims in Uttar Pradesh overwhelmingly rejected the Congress, despite its shameless pandering: Khurshid’s wife, on whose behalf he had campaigned for the Muslim vote, finished fifth in a four-way race, which takes some doing.

But it appears that even that resounding electoral drubbing – and the overall rejection of the regressive idea – hasn’t been enough to teach the Congress a lesson.

After Monday’s verdict by the Andhra Pradesh High Court, Salman Khurshid was back at it, saying that the government would go in appeal to the Supreme Court since it some of the observations in the court order.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court has been consistent in its views on sub-quotas for religious minorities, and has beaten back the provision at the State level at least three times since 2004. In September 2004, for instance, it struck down a July 2004 notification by the State government setting aside 5 percent quote for Muslims in employment and in educational institutions. The provision was “wholly unconstitutional,” the court ruled.

Subsequently, in November 2005, the High Court again stuck down legislation passed by the Assembly to set aside 5 percent quota for Muslims. The legislation had its roots in the recommendations of a AP Backward Classes Commission set up by the Congress government of YS Rajasekhara Reddy.

Similarly, when the Rajasekhara Reddy government tried yet again in August 2007 to set aside 5 percent quota for “socially and educationally backward Muslims”, a seven-judge Bench of the High Court struck it down. The State government went in appeal against that High Court ruling, which  petition is now before the Supreme Court.

This isn’t of course the last word on the subject. The matter is before the Supreme Court, and even the AP High Court ruling was framed in a certain context – and to that extent is open to challenge.

Ironically, even Muslims, at whom the sub-quota provision was primarily targeted, have seen through the Congress’ cynical politics of identity and have rejected it in recent elections. Yet, the fact that the party persists with its politics of pandering – despite the many judicial and electoral drubbing it has received over the years – points to an inability or unwillingness to learn its lessons.

(Courtesy: FirstPost.com)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on June 05, 2012. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on June 05, 2012. Filed under , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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