In a development that will give more ammunition to the critics of Narendra Modi and the BJP, the prime minister on Sunday ‘intervened’ in a discussion to argue in favour of upliftment of backward Muslims in Odisha. But the same day, many of his elected representatives in Telangana vehemently opposed the state government’s decision to increase reservations for backward sections of Muslim community.
Speaking at the BJP’s national executive meet, Modi said, “In many regions, there are Muslims who are backwards. The party and governments should ensure that they benefit from the new look backward commission which has been given a constitutional status.”
Almost around the same time, both the houses of Telangana Legislature passed a bill which increases the reservations for Scheduled Tribes and backward sections among the Muslim community in government jobs and educational institutions.
All parties, except BJP, backed the Telangana Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Bill, 2017.
Such was the BJP’s opposition to the idea of an increase in the reservations for backward Muslims that the Speaker Madhusudanachari had to suspend all five BJP MLAs for Sunday’s special session as they protested carrying placards and sporting black scarves . They even called the bill “anti-constitutional” as it provided religion-based quota.
Police detained BJP workers in various parts of the city as they tried to march towards the Assembly.
The lone BJP member in the Council, Ramachandra Rao, also staged a walkout.The BJP MLAs, however, were in support of the increase in quota for the STs.
Rao, according to PTI, said that if the Centre did not include the bill in the 9th schedule of the Constitution (to grant it immunity from a judicial review), the state government will approach the Supreme Court to direct the Centre to do so.
Defending the increase for Muslims, Rao asked, “Why can’t Muslims be given reservations? Are they sinners? They constitute one-fifth of the population of this country….Don’t they pay taxes? Are they not citizens of India?”
“I am not going to beg the Centre (for assent). I am going to fight for it, if required. If the Centre does not come forward (to facilitate assent for the bill), we will raise the issue in the Parliament,” Rao said in the House.
Increasing the reservations for Muslims was TRS’ election promise and the people of the state had endorsed it, Rao said.
Congress leader T Jeevan Reddy backed the bill, but said the state government must ensure its inclusion in the ninth schedule of Constitution.
BJP floor leader G Kishna Reddy said reservations for Muslims were not justified as there was no caste-based discrimination in Islam, and that religion does not endorse reservations.
“Any reservations for Muslims are anti-Islamic. Dr B R Ambedkar also opposed reservations based on religion. 94 percent of Muslim community in the state is covered by the new reservations. This would be a historic blunder of this government,” Reddy said.