A couple of days before the Sachar panel submits its report on the status of Muslims in the country and a few weeks before the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, the Congress has started a debate on the need to uplift the Muslim community.
On Monday, it said it supported reservations for socially and educationally backward Muslims. But it stressed it was opposed to reservations on the basis of religion.
Spokesman Satyavrat Chaturvedi said there was "nothing new'' in the remarks attributed to Union Minister AR Antulay and Administrative Reforms Commission chairman Veerappa Moily about reservations for Muslims. While Antulay favoured the inclusion of Dalit Muslims and Christians in the reserved category of SCs and STs, Moily said quotas for Muslims should have been part of the Constitution. Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had talked of giving Muslims a "fair share".
"The Congress was, is and will be for reservation and upliftment of socially and educationally backward classes irrespective of any religion,'' said Chaturvedi. He said the party's manifesto for the 2004 Lok Sabha elections said the Congress believed in affirmative action for all religious and linguistic minorities and had provided reservations for Muslims in government employment and education in Kerala and Karnataka as they are socially and educationally backward.
"The Congress is committed to adopting this policy for socially and educationally backward sections among Muslims and other religious minorities on a national scale. The Congress also pledges to extend reservations for the economically deprived persons belonging to communities that are at present not entitled such reservations,'' the manifesto said.
Chaturvedi acknowledged the compulsion of coalition politics while deciding on quotas. "Since we are in a coalition, we have to discuss with our partners before arriving at a conclusion,'' he said, adding that the consultative exercise would start in due course.