Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday met influential Muslim leaders, led by Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind’s Mahmood Madni, sending out signs of granting minorities reservation nationally, a key demand.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, too, met the delegation, saying the party would “certainly” fulfill its promise of granting Muslims and other minorities some share in jobs and education, a political hot potato.
The two meetings signal growing proximity between the Congress and the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, the country’s largest Muslim organisation.
Singh told the leaders that the government would soon kick-start the process of arriving at a consensus in his cabinet for granting reservation to minorities. He also assured of having “loopholes” in an upcoming legislation — the communal violence Bill — reworked.
The Congress, in its manifesto, had promised to extend the quota available to minorities in some Congress-ruled states to the national level.
“I feel there is sincerity in the prime minister’s approach,” Madni told Hindustan Times.
The Congress is clearly seeking to revive its historical, institutional ties with the Jamiat for the first time since infighting broke out within the Jamiat in 2007. The succession battle in the Jamiat began with the demise in 2006 of Maulana Asad Madni, a veteran Congress MP. A large section wanted his son, Mahmood, a Rajya Sabha MP, to succeed him. However, there was some significant opposition.
The Congress then steered clear of a two-way relationship with the Jamiat. With the reins of the influential Jamiat slipping back into Madmood’s hands, the Congress is being seen reviving its Jamiat connection.
Two weeks ago, Congress leader Digvijay Singh was at the Jamiat’s headquarters in Delhi.
If Madni, who has a mass following, throws his lot behind the Congress, it will help the party regain its foothold among Muslims — particularly in Uttar Pradesh where party scion Rahul Gandhi is seeking an expansion programme. The party, a major force in the state till the 1980s, saw its Muslim base erode after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992.