The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata pledges job quota for minorities

Calcutta, Jan. 30: Mamata Banerjee today promised job reservation for the minority community if the Trinamul Congress was voted to power in the upcoming elections.

“Job reservation in government departments as well as improvement of madarsa education will be a top priority,” she said at a convention of the party’s minority cell.

Her ally, the BJP, which opposed such reservation in Andhra, did not appear to be making much of an issue of Mamata’s announcement.

State BJP president Tathagata Roy said: “Our main objective in Bengal is to defeat the CPM. So we may make adjustments.”

The minority community makes up 27 per cent of the state’s population and 25 per cent of voters.

Mamata’s alliance with the BJP has cost her minority votes, without at least some of which it is hard for her to win as she starts with a 25 per cent disadvantage.

The “Hindutva issue must be avoided in Bengal”, she said. “Let the BJP have its own agenda in Delhi. But in Bengal we are opposed to all fundamentalist forces and our one-point agenda is to oust the CPM from power,” Mamata said.

New BJP president Rajnath Singh, who met Mamata over dinner, said every NDA partner had its own ideology, but would have to follow a common minimum programme (CMP) in government. “Maybe Trinamul Congress has adopted this policy, but it will always be subservient to a CMP,” he said.

State BJP leaders were not present at the convention, but Shahnawaz Hussain, who was a minister in the Vajpayee government, was there.

In the presence of former Congress chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, Mamata recounted that during 1972-77, when he ruled, the minorities had representation in government departments and in police.

In a resolution adopted at the convention, she challenged the Left to publish a white paper on what it had done for the minorities in its 29 years in power.

“Give me a chance to serve you better. I shall see to it that there is a regular flow of funds for madarsa education, which the Left Front government has stopped,” she said. Mamata also promised reservation in educational institutions.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas accused her of trying to incite the minorities. “The Trinamul chief is treading a dangerous path. We believe minorities should be provided with all opportunities,” he said without commenting on reservation.

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