In a decision that can turn Rahul Gandhi’s plans to revive the Congress in Uttar Pradesh into a reality, the union cabinet on Thursday cleared a 4.5% share for minorities within the 27% OBC quota in jobs and university seats. The decision will be effective from January 1, 2012.
The decision comes just ahead of the assembly polls in UP, India’s most politically significant state, where 18% of the population is Muslim and is expected to help Congress general secretary's goal of ensuring a good show for the Congress in the forthcoming assembly elections as well as reviving the party in its former bastion in the long run.
Muslims, the most significant minority in Uttar Pradesh, have a significant to decisive vote share in 120 of the state's 403 seats and 21 of the state's 80 Lok Sabha constituencies.
Top UPA sources told HT that the quota for minorities was the most crucial item on the agenda of Thursday's cabinet meeting where only four proposals were discussed. The cabinet met keeping in mind the possible announcement of election dates for UP on Friday.
The cabinet note mentioned that the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities had pegged the OBC population at 52% of the country’s population, of which minorities constitute 8.4%. Based on the 2001 census, the Centre proposed a proportionate 4.5 % sub-quota for minorities.
According to the cabinet note: “The home ministry mentioned that some OBCs may protest against the ‘perceived’ reduction in the space for non-minority OBCs but that is the inevitable result of providing a quota within the reservation.”
Reservation for India’s 150-million Muslims is likely to have a sharply polarising effect, even though the November 2006 Sachar Committee Report had found the minority community starkly under-represented in all spheres of professional and public life. The ruling Congress had then promised “reservations” to them in its poll manifesto.