Congress ties itself in knots over reservation issue

Last Updated 14 January 2012, 14:09 IST

A day after distancing itself from Law Minister Salman Khurshid's remarks on reservation, Congress today tied itself in knots saying it favoured further increase in job quotas for backward minorities in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress also said that it was of the opinion that there should not have been a ban on the Centre's decision on 4.5 per cent reservation for minorities in jobs as it was taken prior to poll announcement.

The Election Commission had directed the Centre to put on hold the implementation of its decision on job quotas for minorities in the five poll-bound states.

Khurshid had triggered off a controversy by promising to increase the sub-quota for OBC Muslims in Uttar Pradesh by 9 percent, a remark dubbed by Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi yesterday as the "individual view" of the Law Minister.

"It is an individual view. It would be better if you ask Khurshid for his reaction in the matter. There is inner party democracy in our party", Alvi had said yesterday in response to a volley of questions including whether the party saw nothing wrong with the Minister's statement.

Today, Alvi said the Congress party, in its 2009 Lok Sabha election manifesto, had promised to provide reservation to OBC Muslims on the lines it had done in Andhra Pradesh.

"The manifesto for Uttar Pradesh elections is being readied ... we are discussing to increase this (4.5 per cent) percentage and that will be in our manfiesto for UP elections," he said.

On the EC decision, Alvi said "though the EC has put the reservation decision on hold, we are of the view that any party which goes to polls will find itself in a difficult position if it does not talk about its manifesto."

Alvi said that Khurshid called him today morning and clarified that he had not mentioned any definitive figure like 9 percent but talked about it being between 8 to 9 percent and that after calculations  it will be part of the manifesto.

"Our view is that Election Commission has the responsibility to conduct fair polls in the country. EC is a constitutional body and it should be beyond criticism. We will not comment on its orders even if anything goes against us.

"...But our opinion is that we had announced the decision (on 4.5 percent reservation for backward Muslims) well before the election dates were announced. According to us, there should not have been any ban on that decision," Alvi said.

He, however, evaded direct answers on specific queries on whether it was proper for the Law Minister to announce a figure even before the manifesto for the state election was out.

"It has to be caluclated. I can't say how much it would be. But Salman Khurshid is also the Chairman of the manifiesto committee for the state," Alvi pointed out suggesting Khurshid might have said it as he was aware of what was being finalized in the party manifesto.

Sources in AICC meanwhile said the party is likely to announce an enhance 8.5 percent reservation for backward minorities in Uttar Pradesh.

Asked why he distanced himself from Khurshid's remarks yesterday, Alvi merely said,"we do not say anything different from what we decide in our manfiesto".

He said the party, as promised in its 2009 Lok Sabha election manifesto, will provide reservation to backward minorities everywhere including Uttar Pradesh on the line of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

(Published 14 January 2012, 14:09 IST)

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