The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Muslim twist to economic quota tussle

New Delhi, June 2: The BJP has not only accepted the gauntlet of reservation for upper castes thrown by the Congress but also given the political battle a twist by demanding that economically backward Muslims must benefit from the proposed measure.

Answering queries from the press today, BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu said: “All people are not in the reserved categories. Anyone who is poor should be included in the new category and obviously we cannot exclude any community.”

However, when it was pointed out that in the past the BJP had opposed reservation for Muslims on the ground that there could be no quota on “communal basis”, the BJP chief protested, saying: “On the question of reservation for Muslims, the principle is the same. Jitna aata, utna roti (the bread produced will be in proportion to the flour used for making the dough). We do not want to create a communal divide but at the same time no community can be left out.”

BJP sources said while no final position was adopted vis-a-vis reservation for the economically backward Muslims, the party was keen that the government set up a commission to identify the economically backward classes (EBCs).

Sources said the government had indicated that a commission for EBCs would be in place before the monsoon session of Parliament, which is slated to begin mid-July, so that the Congress would not have a handle to prod the government.

The sources also said the commission could complete its mandated task before the four Assembly elections to enable the BJP to give a “fitting” answer to the Congress in Rajasthan, from where the controversy of reservation for EBCs has originated.

The BJP president today also mooted the proposal to hold simultaneous elections of all kinds — Lok Sabha, Assembly, panchayat, municipal, cooperative, etc. to save expenditure and enable the country to “focus single-mindedly on development”.

Naidu, who had floated this balloon in a gathering of intellectuals in Chennai over the weekend, said he would campaign for the “idea of holding simultaneous elections on a single day, from the highest to the lowest” in all fora.

He said he would try and evolve a consensus around it within the BJP and in the larger political spectrum.

His other suggestion was to enable continuity of a government’s tenure by enabling a motion of confidence to automatically follow a no-confidence motion, so that even if an incumbent government was voted out an alternative one could be sworn in immediately, without subjecting the country or a state to a mid-term poll.

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