A Congress promise of reservation for backward Muslims today kicked up a row with BJP calling it a "last desperate" act on its part to get some votes, a charge rejected outright by Congress which said it has not come out with any supplementary manifesto.
"Congress has not come out with any sub-manifesto," party spokesperson and Law Minister Kapil Sibal said on Friday maintaining that the issue of sub-quota for backward Muslims is pending in the Supreme Court and as long as the matter is not resolved there the party cannot do anything. "These are only suggestions made in the process of public consultation. We have put it before people. When Congress comes to power, we will take it forward. These are suggested policies and programmes, which have come up at the open manifesto consultation process.When we are open to it, we have a right to consider it as and when the Supreme court decides it. This is the best possible way. There is nothing wrong with that...There is no appeasement...We must respect the sentiments of the public," Sibal said.
He was asked about reports that the Congress has put on its website, a sub-manifesto in a fresh minority pitch promising quota reservation in jobs for backward Muslims.
When told that that these are not mere suggestions as Congress had announced a minority sub-quota before the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh as well, the Union Minister said, "Yes, we had announced it even in UP but the matter is pending in the Supreme Court. How can we do it unless the Supreme Court decides it." He added that in some states like Andhra Pradesh reservation has been made for backward minorities. The matter is now pending with the Supreme Court.
The BJP accused the Congress of releasing an additional manifesto promising reservation for backward Muslims, saying it is their "last desperate" act to get some votes and people will not believe in a "supplementary manifesto of a losing party". "Losers may promise the moon tomorrow. But the people have suffered under their 10 years rule. So nobody is willing to discuss it also," BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar told reporters.
Congress had put out these suggestions under the caption "Suggested Policies and Programmes for Consideration of Congress Government (2014-2019): Empowerment of Minorities" almost two weeks ago. Under the sub title "The Detailed Action Plan 2014-2019", the party said that the Congress-led IPA government has taken steps to address the conditions of backward minorities by providing for reservation in education and institutions and in government employment. "We will pursue this closely in the Supreme Court and ensure that the policy is implemented through proper legislation," it said. It also listed "extension of Scheduled Caste status to all Dalit Minorities" as among the expectations expressed by some groups, which will continue to guide Congress' efforts toward their development. Besides, it noted that earmarking of 4.5 per cent reservation for backward Muslims in the existing OBC quota as also among one of the expectations of people from Congress.
The party suggested formation of a committee to enquire into the socio-economic status of Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Muslims to ensure "equitable access to government benefits".
Under its Open Manifesto Process, Congress consulted with all stakeholders and incorporated some of their suggestions on various issues in the Suggested Policies and Programmes for Consideration of Congress Government (2014-2019). The suggested policies and programmes have now been added to the Manifesto section on the party website, Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala had said a fortnight back. In the section, the party said, it was "committed to finding a way forward towards all such expectations of these groups by putting in concerted efforts" like earmark reservation of 4.5 percent to backward Muslims in the existing OBC's reservations and extension of SC status to all Dalit minorities. The other such expectations to which it showed its commitment include setting up of an Empower Equal Opportunity Commission to check discrimination against Minorities in employment and education.
In its Plan of Action, it said,"the Communal Violence Bill, which was drafted and introduced by Congress will be passed as a matter of priority."
Claiming that much work has been done to implement the recommendations of the Sachar Committee, the Congress said it will work tirelessly to ensure that every single suggestion is reviewed and efforts are made for its implementation.