NEW DELHI: The government is considering giving reservation to backward Muslims within the 27 per cent quota fixed for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and a decision in this regard will be taken soon, the Union Law Minister, Mr Salman Khurshid said today.
"Of the 27 per cent OBC quota in jobs, the government is examining to fix a quota for backward Muslims," he told mediapersons outside Parliament.
Mr Khurshid said the decision on fixing a quota for backward Muslims within the OBC quota would come before the Cabinet the "soonest", but refused to give a timeline.
"We are working towards it, but I can't give a dateline or a deadline," he said noting that the issue has been on the government's agenda for the last two years and a decision on it is pending and has to be decided soon, he said.
He added, "Whatever our commitment, our manifesto… For having reservation within reservation for backward minorities as done in Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, we are observing it as it is our commitment to do it. We are hopeful of fulfilling our commitment. We are working on it. We are not making any announcement as no decision has yet been taken on this."
He said under the law all reservations can only be on the basis of OBCs. "Indira Sahni judgment is what we can go by in this regard," he said.
Admitting that there already was reservation for backward Muslims, he said the effectiveness of this reservation, which is not happening and to which the Sachar Committee has also pointed out, is to be ensured.
The decision, which may come ahead of the crucial Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, is aimed at wooing the sizeable Muslim population in the state, where the ruling Congress is working hard to stage a comeback.
When asked why the decision was coming ahead of the polls in UP, Mr Khurshid shot back, "Should we stop working ahead of the polls in the state", adding that "Whatever we think is our responsibility, we are doing."
Mr Khurshid also took a dig at the Chief Minister, Ms Mayawati, questioning why she had not given such reservation.
"If she is concerned, she is free to give such reservation to Muslims. We will be doing it for Central government jobs. If she is so concerned, she could do the same for jobs in Uttar Pradesh," he said.
The Law Minister said, "We have now reached two-and-a-half years of our term in Parliament. Therefore, whatever we have promised, now we have to start ticking that we have now fulfilled our promises. We have to take stock of what we have done and what is left to be done. Whatever we have to do, we have to complete that. Keeping this in view, we are moving ahead."
When asked if his Ministry had factored in the theological view that Islam as a religion did not permit caste, Mr Khurshid said, "I'm sure that anybody who strongly believes in this and has courage of conviction will not partake of reservations. It's only those who believe that this is not something that stands in the way of reservations and opportunity who will take part in it."
He added, "There is no compulsion of any kind. Whatever we offer is consensual opportunity for people to move forward economically."