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Andhra High Court strikes down the Congress effort for reachout to the Muslim community – the quota politics




For the Congress party, reaching out to the Muslim community is a very powerful imperative. The Muslim community forms a strong voting bloc in many regions of the country, and there are a number of contenders for the vote-bloc of the Muslim community (although there have been many postulations that, apart from not voting for the BJP, the Muslim community is not a single transferable voting bloc). Many recent reports have reported that the economic profile of the Muslim community is overall lower than that of the national average, and there is a need to do measures to increase the development of the community. Such a need is important from both the perspective of improving the lot of citizens of the country, and also because dis-satisfaction breeds discontent which can lead to separatist tendencies. It is very rare that well developed communities or groups take to violent means (after all, the poor condition of huge section of people such as tribals in states such as Chattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra leads to be them becoming much more likely to support the Maoists in their campaign against the state).
Now, it is important for the Congress to be seen as doing something that will help the condition of the Muslim community, and these measures need to be loud, something that can be easily proclaimed. What better than to show-case reservation for the Muslim community, especially when the Congress overall is facing tough economic times politically and electorally. Such conditions make for big decisions that seem to be significant decisions, but which do not really change anything on the ground. The Congress would have already known that reservation based on religion has always generated huge controversies, and courts have never liked such discrimination, and yet this was the primary measure taken by the Government to improve the condition of the Muslim community. It would seem very likely that the aim of the measure was to showcase that the Government is taking credible steps, while knowing that it is likely to remain under judicial stay and yet not really force the implementation of serious measures.

What are serious measures that the Congress could take ? There have been any number of reports that highlight significant measures that the Congress (or any other Government could take). However, these are intensive measures that need a lot of effort and hard work – they involve steps that deal with getting better education levels and standards for Muslim students; identifying the industries where the Muslim community used to work and which have got affected by economic development; highlighting icons for the Muslim community and community integration into the national mainstream (followed by law and order which applies equally to all communities). However, these have been highlighted for some time now, and it is clear that Governments would rather go in for showcase methods than these slow and grass-root efforts that would increase the development of the Muslim community. Consider the criticism by the Court (link to article):

The high court had observed yesterday that no evidence was shown to it to justify the classification of these religious minorities as a homogeneous group or as more backward classes deserving some special treatment.
Regarding the court’s criticism that the government handled the issue in a “casual” manner, Khurshid said it was not clear whether the court was referring to policy aspect of the issue or the advocacy aspect.
He said it was not the first time the Andhra Pradesh high court has struck down such an order. On earlier occasions also, the Andhra Pradesh high court had struck down the state government’s order to provide quota.




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