The debate on quota for Muslims gathered steam as former prime minister Deve Gowda on Wednesday proposed the Karnataka formula — provide four per cent reservation for the community while grading them as a separate category within the Other Backward Classes (OBC).
Gowda said Karnataka had been following the formula since 1995 and the BJP, which is in the coalition headed by his son HD Kumaraswamy, had not opposed it.
The Karnataka formula restricts all quotas to 50 per cent as directed by the Supreme Court in the Mandal case. This is the break-up: 15 per cent for Dalits, three per cent for tribals and the rest for five categories of OBCs in which Muslims are listed as "Category 2B".
Surprisingly, Gowda also backed the exclusion of the creamy layer to enable "the less privileged brethren" among the SC, ST and OBCs who remain marginalised.
By suggesting a four per cent quota for Muslims at an all India-level, Gowda said he had taken forward the debate kicked off by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s call for a “fair share” for the minorities.
Recently, Congress leader M Veerappa Moily had said reservation for Muslims should have been part of the Constitution. Earlier, AR Antulay, who is Union minister for minority affairs, had also spoken in favour of reservations for Muslims.
Being a prominent OBC leader himself, Moily’s remark was considered as a clear indication of the thinking in the Congress, which still maintains that it is opposed to reservations based on religious lines as there is a legal bar to implementing such a proposal.
Also, PMO officials say that "fair share" mentioned by Dr Manmohan Singh did not mean quotas.
As chief minister of Karnataka over a decade ago, Moily who heads the Administrative Reforms Commission, had provided reservation to backward Muslims in the state under the "OBC umbrella".
Samajwadi Party chief Mulyam Singh Yadav has also favoured a quota for Muslims if the Centre gives the green signal.
In contrast, BJP chief Rajnath Singh has accused the government of "suffering from the obsession of minoritism" by resorting to exercises like a Muslim headcount in the Army and toying with the idea of "communal reservations" in government services.