The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paswan lobs quota gauntlet at Laloo

Ranchi, Sept. 15: Bickering within the United Progressive Alliance came into the open today with fertilisers, chemicals and steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan daring railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav to give Dalit Muslims 10 per cent reservation in Bihar.

Paswan, who is the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief, also dared Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav to do the same.

The steel minister, who arrived here this afternoon hours behind schedule to attend a state-level party workers' meeting, said both Laloo Prasad, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief, and Mulayam Singh claim to uphold the cause of minorities and have netted their votes in every election.

'In Bihar, Laloo has drawn tremendous political mileage out of professing the Muslim-Yadav equation. Similar is the case with Mulayam. But these two political leaders have done nothing for the cause of the minorities either in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh,' Paswan said.

The LJP chief said the RJD and the Samajwadi Party should prove they are pro-minority by reserving 10 per cent of party tickets for Dalit Muslims as his party intends doing. Paswan's announcement comes in the wake of his party's merger with the Momin Conference, a powerful Muslim organisation. The LJP chief also said his party would contest all Assembly seats in Jharkhand and Bihar.

Paswan said his party had fielded candidates for certain seats in the two states during the recent Lok Sabha polls.

'But for the sake of unity of the secular forces against the BJP, the LJP withdrew its candidates to support the ones capable of defeating the BJP. But then the political equations are different during Assembly elections. When the communists and the Congress are pitted against each other in Maharashtra, why can't the LJP field its nominees in all the seats in Bihar and Jharkhand where we are capable of forming a government independently' he asked.

The LJP chief said the UPA government at the Centre is serious about reservations for tribals, Scheduled Castes and backward castes in the private sector. 'The group of ministers entrusted for the job are deliberating on the issue and I want to assure you that this will happen soon.'

Paswan also backed reservation for economically backward upper caste members. He added that the private sector must ensure reservation for weaker sections. 'This is an issue which no political party can dare to oppose. When there is reservation in the public sector, why cannot it be given by the private players. Public sector is fast going to private hands, so the private groups should have to give a guarantee of jobs to the weaker class.'

The minister turned to cricket to describe the UPA's performance. 'In cricket, the batsmen take some time to adjust to the wicket conditions and the weather. They take time to judge the line and length of the opposition bowlers. Once they spend some time on the wicket, they hit boundaries.'

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