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The whole drama about reservations for Muslims and its politics – primarily in Uttar Pradesh




For the past few days, in addition to the many caste calculations going on in the UP electoral scene, there is another twist that has been added to the whole discourse. This is related to political parties trying to attract the Muslim vote and what they can do for it. Now, getting support from a community is not a problem, but doing it only for electoral purposes and at the time of elections continues to be a problem, especially when it is so blatant.
A series of reports over the years have concluded that Indian muslims over the years have a level of development which is lower than that of the general population, and nobody can really doubt these conclusions. Further, over the years, a number of trades that had traditionally a higher proportion of Muslims (such as weavers) were affected by economic movements, further reducing the economic growth of the community. These were items that the Governments of the day should have handled, with targeted economic and development measures that laid a lot of emphasis on economic development that would increase the empowerment level of Muslims in the country.

But, what do we see ? Take for an example, the current debate happening over reservation for Muslims. Suddenly, after the announcement of elections, the Congress raised the demand for an increase in sub-quota for Muslims out of the quota for backward classes. It will only be somebody totally naive who would believe that this was unconnected to elections; after all, the party has been in power for 7 years now, the Sachar committee report has also been out for many years, and yet, it is only at the time of elections that the Congress makes such a statement. And the Congress (and no other major political party also) does not makes any statement on education or other infrastructural incentives that would increase the opportunities of those regions that have a higher proportion of Muslims. If you ever visit those regions of Uttar Pradesh where the percentage of Muslims is higher, the amount of facilities or infrastructure you see will be abysmal, and yet no party really has done anything to increase the quality of this infrastructure.
This promise of sub-quota has multiple implications. The Congress does not believe that the castes which will be affected by the diversion of a sub-quota in reservations towards Muslims are voting for the Congress, and hence no problems for the Congress. All the 3 other parties are however impacted. The BJP typically has never really seriously sought Muslim votes, and does not get much of them; so it is trying to galvanize the castes that are impacted by the sub-division of the quota. Hence the absorption of even highly tainted politicians kicked out from the BSP.
The impact on the BSP and the Sawajwadi Party is greater. Both of them claim the support of these impacted backward castes as well as the Muslim community, so they are not able to comment on either side of the statements of the Congress. They really cannot back the sub-division of the quota to give the Muslims more jobs, and they cannot not back it since that could impact the Muslim vote. So, they will end up attacking the Congress on other issues, and continue making a lot more attacks on the credibility of Rahul Gandhi, since he is also the chief icon of the Congress.
The latest is that the Congress itself is not backing the claims made by Salman Khursheed of increasing the sub-quota to 9% (even the earlier announcement of 4.5% sub-quota has been temporarily held in abeyance by the Election Commission till the elections are over). Maybe there is the fear of a section of the most backward castes turning totally against the Congress.
One really had hopes that the electorate slowly moves towards more issues of development and demanding accountability from their leaders and parties about the high levels of corruption and diversion of funds meant for development, but the emphasis by the parties towards caste and allurement based politics rather than any real discussion about the actual development plans for the state remains disappointing. One wishes that Anna Hazare had a lot more support in the recent rally, atleast that would have kept the political parties on their toes, trying to steer the agenda more towards development rather than who stayed in a Dalit home overnight.




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