Muslim leaders in the country are unconvinced with the Congress promise to the community about giving reservation to its backward sections, and feel the offer has come too late in the day. In an additional manifesto uploaded on its website, the Congress Friday said it will ensure "quota of 4.5 percent for backward Muslims in the existing OBC (Other Backward Classes) reservations".
However, all the Muslim leaders IANS spoke to pooh-poohed the party's latest promise as a poll sop and insufficient. The move came in the middle of Lok Sabha elections when voting for over 300 seats has been completed. Congress appears to be battling odds in the election due to an aggressive campaign by the BJP and perceived anti-incumbency against party-led United Progressive Alliance government.
Shahid Siddiqui, editor of Nai Duniya and a former member of the Samajwadi Party, called the proposal a case of "too little, too late". "It has no meaning. It is a typical promise made during elections, and in this case, comes after so many phases are already over. It won't materialise. Moreover, the party that has made the promise has hardly any credibility left among the Muslims," said Siddiqui, who had to leave the SP after he interviewed Narendra Modi for his publication.
He also demanded the EC should take note of the matter as it could be violative of the model code of conduct and should decide upon the correct course of action to be taken. Zafarul Islam Khan, vice-president of the Welfare Party of India, said the Congress should first implement the recommendations made in the Srikrishna Committee report which indicted several leaders of the BJP and the Shiv Sena for their role in the 1992 Mumbai riots, post the demolition of the Babri Masjid. "A vague promise will be useless," said Khan.
Abdul Noumani, spokesperson of the Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind, said the party's promise of reservation "was an old thing. It is easy to say. The main thing is to implement it although the point is correct." He accused the Congress of reneging on such promises in the past under pressure from right-wing forces.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal said: "In some states, reservation has been done, in Andhra Pradesh, for example. If we come to power, we will take a call on it." Among other assurances, the additional manifesto states that adequate representation of minority communities will be ensured in faculty and student positions in educational institutions, and all public positions.
A minority panel in every state, freeing Waqf properties from illegal possession by state and central governments, and setting up of a committee to inquire into the socio-economic status of all minority groups also are some of the promises. Under the heading "The Detailed Action Plan 2014-2019", the party has promised that scholarships to needy students from the minority communities will continue to be granted by the Maulana Azad Education Foundation, set up by the outgoing government.
Easy access to credit and tax rebates will be made available to individuals belonging to minority communities for the purpose of setting up new businesses, it says. The party has also pledged to continue with initiatives to stop the mismanagement of Waqf properties. Early passage of the Communal Violence Bill, reservation for backward minorities in educational institutes and government jobs, and implementation of all the recommendations of the Sachar Committee report also form part of the Detailed Action Plan.