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Since 1st March, 1999
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Minorities in quota plea

Guwahati, Dec. 18: Assam's minority leaders will be mounting pressure on the state Congress leadership for at least 30 per cent seat reservation in the “high-stake” three-tier panchayat elections.

Sources in the Assam PCC’s minority department, headed by Adil Shah, said a proposal to this effect will be discussed and moved at the extended executive of the department on December 20.

Former and sitting MLAs, MPs, ministers, district committee presidents of the department, besides its executive members, will be attending the meeting. The focus will remain the three-phase panchayat elections (to be held on January 30, February 6 and February 12) in all districts barring the six Sixth Schedule districts.

The demand for reservation for minority candidates will only add to the pressure on the state leadership, which will also have to field 50 per cent women candidates in the polls as decided by the government. Sources said whatever the final executive resolution, the ruling party will have to tread cautiously because the Muslim community, one of the five included in the list of minorities, appears to be drifting away from the party owing to the “inept” handling of the BTAD riots in July.

The AIUDF has been the major gainer. “The polls will be an acid test for us. The mishandling of the riots by our government at Dispur and Delhi was capitalised by the AIUDF to emerge in the eyes of the Muslims in Lower Assam as their saviour (instead of the traditional protector Congress) has made our task that much tougher. Besides seat reservation, we will also be seeking a smooth flow of central funds to beneficiaries and implementation of a 15-point programme for minorities,” a minority department source said said.

Adil Shah did not disclose the percentage of seats the department will demand across the three tiers. But he admitted that the AIUDF had emerged as the party’s major challenger in the polls. Shah also said the party would also formulate plans to dethrone AIUDF from their strongholds based on reports to be submitted by the district presidents.

Besides Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Sikhs and Buddhists are included in list of minorities

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