Political parties across the board are opposed to religion-based reservation, which, in any case, is not permitted in the Constitution. But this has not stopped the initial debate on the Sachar panel's suggestions from turning quota-centric.
Often targeted by the BJP for its alleged "Muslim appeasement" policy, the Congress saw the panel's report as a vindication of its stand that its concern about the status of Muslims was genuine.
"This fact-finding committee should permanently bury the appeasement argument deliberately raised by the Opposition to mislead the people of India. It only underlines the urgent need to enhance the scope of ameliorative programmes and schemes for these sections," said Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had spoken of giving a "fair share" to Muslims.
But the BJP and VHP accused the Congress of indulging in politics of "appeasement and votebank" and warned that they would oppose any move to use the panel's findings as an alibi to extend reservation to Muslims. BJP spokesman Prakash Javdekar warned that communal reservation would lead to Muslim ghettoisation.
VHP leader Pravin Togadia was against giving any special benefits to Muslims as, he alleged, the community opposes Indian laws, derides family planning, refuses modern education and refrains from joining the mainstream. He warned the Congress against the "unbridled appeasement" of the community and a Hindu backlash.
The CPI, however, dismissed the BJP's warning of brewing social tensions. "In fact, if you do not address the concerns of Muslims, there could be social tensions," said party leader D Raja. Like the Congress, the CPI too spoke about "affirmative action" programmes for Muslims.