Rajat Sharma


AKB30 An April 2009 video of the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh surfaced on Friday, in which the former PM is seen clearly saying at a press conference in Mumbai that “minorities, especially poor Muslims, should have first right when it comes to resources.” The press conference was addressed by Dr Singh in the run-up to the 2009 parliamentary elections. He categorically said, he stood by his earlier assertion that poor Muslims should have first right when it comes to resources. The video comes a day after Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying he had misquoted Dr Singh on the issue of giving priority to Muslims on national resources. Kharge posted an open letter to Modi in which he wrote, “it has become a habit for you to seize on few words taken out of context and create a communal divide. You are lowering the dignity of the chair by speaking in this manner.” On Friday, BJP, after circulating Singh’s 2009 video, stated. “This unequivocal assertion by Dr Manmohan Singh demolishes the Congress’ canards and clarifications on his previous statement. It supports our assertion that preferential treatment to Muslims is a clear policy of the Congress Party. This is further proof of the Congress mindset to give preference to Muslims in everything, from reservation to resources.” This furore has taken place on a day when millions of voters casted their votes on Friday in 88 parliamentary constituencies and the poll atmosphere is already surcharged. At three election rallies at Agra, Bareilly and Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh on Friday, Modi alleged that both Congress and SP are promoting appeasement politics and they want to reduce the quota of backward castes in order to give reservation to Muslims. Modi named these backward castes – Kurmi, Maurya, Kushwaha, Yadav, Gurjar, Jat, Rajbhar, Teli and Pal. He warned the backward caste voters to be on its guard against the machinations of Congress and SP. Modi had said in his rallies in Rajasthan and MP that between 2004 and 2010, the Congress government tried to give reservation to Muslims in Andhra Pradesh four times, but due to legal hurdles and awarenesss of Supreme Court, it could not fulfil its intention. Modi said, the “Congress government committed a sin in Karnataka by including all Muslims, regardless of their wealth or social status, in the OBC list. OBC reservation was snatched illegally and clandestinely and given to Muslims.” Strongly responding to this, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah on Friday claimed, the Prime Minister was “telling a blatant lie”. He said, “it is indicative of his desperation born from a fear of defeat. Constitutional reservation cannot be arbitrarily amended. States do not have the authority to modify them. That a Prime Minister lacks even this basic knowledge is tragic for our country.” In the same breath, Siddaramaiah admitted that “in Karnataka, Muslims have been included in the 2B category for backward classes. This is not something done now. It was based on the reports of Backward Classes Commissions. This reservation has been in place for the last three decades.” It is true that Prime Minister Modi mentioned the word ‘Musalman’ in his election meeting, but he used the word ‘Musalman’ only once in his Rajasthan rally. Since then, Modi has been repeatedly saying that the Congress wants to steal reservation from backward castes and give them to the community it likes. He gave the example of Karnataka. Congress leaders cannot deny that Muslims are getting reservation in that state, but, while clarifying, they say that reservation to Muslims was being given since the last thirty years and it is not on the basis of religion, but on grounds of poverty. But the question here is: Is the entire Muslim community socially and economically backward? Muslim castes were brought into the reservation quota on grounds of social backwardness. All Muslims are getting reservation there. If this is not religious-based reservation, what else? Thirdly, if Congress wants to refute Modi’s allegation, why doesn’t the present Congress government in Karnataka announce that it would end reservation for Muslims. Why doesn’t the party say this emphatically that no reservation will be given to Muslims in any state? Since the Congress will not do this due to obvious reasons, Narendra Modi will continue to sharpen his attacks. Modi has used this mistake on part of the Congress as an issue in his favour.

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