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As Muslim groups fretted over the move to reserve a third of all seats in Parliament and state legislatures for women, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said interests of minorities would be looked after.
“I do recognise our minorities have not got adequate share of fruits of development. We will do everything to remove all discrimination,” Singh told the Rajya Sabha, which passed the women’s reservation Bill.
Singh’s remarks came as a broad hint that the Congress could now quickly fulfil its manifesto promise of nationwide quotas for backward Muslims.
This will enable the Congress to thwart efforts of parties such as the SP and RJD to regroup Muslims and backward castes against it.
Muslim leaders argue the women’s reservation Bill will have a direct bearing on Muslim representation, shrinking the space for Muslim lawmakers further.
Leaders like RJD’s Lalu Prasad have questioned the Congress’s thrust on women’s quota, while sidestepping Muslim reservation.
From 48 MPs in 1984, the community’s representation is down to 29 in the present lower house. Just 14 Muslim women have been elected lawmakers since the first general elections.
“The negative impact of the women’s bill will be neutralised only if the PM implements Muslim reservation with similar zeal and through constitutional amendments,” said Manzoor Alam, secretary-general of the All-India Milli Council.
Muslim organisations have called a national convention on the outskirts of Hyderabad on March 13 to discuss the Bill’s fallout and the “frivolity” with which Congress governments were extending reservation to Muslims, said Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.