After wooing imams and muezzins by announcing freebies recently, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is now aiming at job reservations for Muslims.
The Trinamool Congress plans to soon raise the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The party is sounding out leaders such as Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav, who are known to be sympathetic to the issue for their support.
“We are not satisfied with the present job reservation for Muslims. We will shortly meet the prime minister and press for more reservation,” said Sultan Ahmed, Trinamool core committee member and Union minister of state for tourism.
The meeting with PM is, however, yet to be fixed.
“We will also talk to Mulayam, Nitish and Lalu, who have always demanded reservation for Muslims. I have the full support of our party chief who understands the problems of Muslims,” added Ahmed.
According to Ahmed, the 4.5% reservation for Muslims within the 27% OBC quota (announced by the central government in December last year) is not enough.
Before the Uttar Pradesh election, Congress leader Salman Khurshid said the quota for Muslims would be raised to 9%. “These lollipops don’t work and the Congress got the results. Something concrete is required,” said Ahmed.
“The Centre has to work out a way. Either give reservation directly to Muslims or work through the OBC quota,” he said.
Party sources said since the Lok Sabha polls, the Muslim vote bank has favoured Banerjee, who wants to ensure their support in the upcoming panchayat polls and a possible early Lok Sabha polls.
In Bengal, where Muslims comprise 26% (2001 data) of the population, Banerjee has wooed the community aggressively.
Apart from setting up a special committee for development of Muslims led by Rajendra Sachar, the chief minister initiated the process of recognising 10,000 madrasas.
Recently she courted controversy by announcing a monthly honorarium of R2,500 for 30,000 imams of the state with free education for children and 3 cottahs of homestead land. She had also announced R1,000 honorarium for muezzins.