The Mukul Wasnik-headed social justice ministry has suggested implementing reservations for Muslims through an executive order, an easier option than a constitutional amendment. Both options are on the table.
Minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid said the government would give reservation to "backward Muslims very soon" and consultations were on, but he denied making any new pronouncement on the issue on Thursday, contrary to media reports. "It's simply not true that I have said that we are zeroing on any one option. Consultations are on," he said.
The UPA government has "more or less" decided to carve up the existing 27% quota for the OBC to give Muslims 6% reservation, but is grappling with political and legal hurdles.
Currently, some Muslim groups qualify for reservation in the OBC category. However, the gripe is that they have not benefited significantly from this.
This option would save the government of exercising a constitutional amendment, but it would also mean that the demand to extend reservations to all Muslims, barring the so-called "creamy layer" or the well-off, will go unmet.
The move to give Muslims reservations could put the Mulayam Singh-led SP in a spot. If he supports it, he could end up alienating the Yadavs, whose share in the OBC reservation is likely to be pared to fit more Muslims. If he opposes, it could see his support among Muslims slide in favour of the Congress.