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Buddha in Muslim quota push

Calcutta, May 23: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said his government would complete identification of one crore Muslims for reservation in government jobs by June in a bid to win back minority voters from the Trinamul Congress ahead of the civic polls.

He has already declared that 10 per cent of state government jobs will be reserved for poor Muslims belonging to the Other Backward Classes.

“We have begun our work. One crore Muslims will be covered under our reservation policy by June. Ten in a hundred would get government jobs,” Bhattacharjee said, addressing a late-evening rally at minority-dominated Razabazar.

Muslims constitute over 25 per cent of the state’s population and a substantial section belongs to the OBC groups. The government has identified 37 OBC groups in the community.

“I know most of the Muslims are poor and a tiny section belongs to the creamy layer. Why should Muslims be deprived when Scheduled Castes are offered reservation?

“Reservation can’t solve all problems. But our move will help Muslims achieve parity with Hindus in education and employment.”

He himself has never been an enthusiast for Muslim reservation and has expressed scepticism about it publicly despite pressure from a section of the CPM and the Left Front. But today he said that lack of supportive expert opinion had delayed his policy announcement.

“People told me that reservation for Muslims would not be possible when I had asked them for the legal means. But the recommendations of the Ranganath Misra commission emboldened me to take the step,” Bhattacharjee said.

Aware that Nandigram, combined with the Sachar committee report, had helped Trinamul to make inroads into the Left’s traditional Muslim base, he conceded the community’s marginal presence in government jobs.

He promised more Urdu-medium schools, special fund for the education of poor Muslim students and more loans to self-employed youth.

Bhattacharjee spoke on several issues of concern to the community — from the Babri mosque demolition to the mysterious death of Rizwanur Rahman — but only to attack Trinamul

He recalled that Trinamul had joined the BJP-led NDA government even after the demolition of the mosque and urged the CBI to probe the role of the local Trinamul councillor in Rizwanur’s death.

“I want the CBI to unearth the whole truth behind his murder. We must know who had killed him.”

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