Nitish against religion-based reservation for Muslims

Published on Nov 22, 2006 11:42 PM IST

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday opposed reservation for Muslims on the basis of religion, reports Shekhar Iyer.

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None | ByShekhar Iyer, New Delhi

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday opposed reservation for Muslims on the basis of religion.

He said it would cause polarisation of the society apart from being unconstitutional. "That cannot be the intention of anyone wanting to help the community."

Instead, he favoured categorising Muslims on the basis of their castes and providing benefits under the existing provisions of the reservation system.

Differing with the BJP, Nitish said the Dalits who have converted to Islam or Christianity should be allowed to avail of the benefits of the reservation for the scheduled castes.

"This would ease the pressure on the system and those belonging to backward classes can be covered under various categories of the OBC," he said in an interaction with editors in New Delhi on completion of the first year of his coalition government.

Nitish said Bihar was already offering reservation benefits to Muslims who belong to OBC classes under the Mandal system. He said his coalition partner, the BJP, was not posing any problem towards the implementation of the system.

Nitish said he viewed the result of the by-election to the Bhagalpur Lok Sabha constituency has an eye opener to the attitude of the minority community towards the JD(U)-BJP coalition.

"After being subjected to the fear propaganda that our alliance is communal and against the minority community, the Muslims in Bihar have shown their trust in us." Bhagalpur elected BJP nominee Shahnawaz Hussain with an impressive margin.

Nitish said Muslims were satisfied with actions like subsidised power for weavers, clearing their burial grounds of encroachments and illegal occupation and regular salaries for teachers in Madarassas as part of a ten-point programme for the community's uplift.

Listing his biggest achievement in the last one-year in office after 16 years of Lalu-Rabri rule, Nitish said, "we assumed office with a lot of expectations from the people. Today, we have created their confidence in us too. Bihar has a lot to look forward, a lot to hope for."

Nitish exuded confidence his government would complete five years in office. "Why only five years", he said in reply to a question. "I do not want to brag that I will be in power for 10 or 15 years or for long," he said, taking a dig at his predecessor Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Nitish said, "The ground situation has transformed phenomenally in various sectors including law and order. Physical achievements will take time to translate because of the heavy backlog of development caused by inaction in governance."

Referring to law and order, he said, "strict instructions have been given that the police would go after criminals irrespective of party affliation and the rule of law would be followed whether in the case of kidnappings or other crimes."

As for public grievances which he hears personally during Janata darbar, Nitish said a secretary has been put in charge and computerisation of records of all complaints and action taken is underway.

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