The state decided not to convert the ordinance, allowing five per cent reservation in government jobs and education for Muslim backward classes, into a law.
by Sanjay Nirupam
The Maharashtra government’s decision not to convert the ordinance passed by the previous Congress government, allowing five per cent reservation in government jobs and education for Muslim backward classes, into a law can best be described as obnoxious. The ordinance was promulgated towards the fag end of the previous government. The BJP-Shiv Sena government has allowed it to lapse.
Contrary to popular perception, the reservation was not for all Muslims in the state. It was meant only for the backward classes practising Islam. If backward classes in the Hindu religion can claim reservation, what is wrong if the same logic is applied to other religions?
It was not a political decision by the Congress government to offer such reservation just before the elections. The decision was taken after a fact-finding committee, on the lines of the Sachar Committee, submitted its report to the state government. The committee worked for almost eight years and after exhaustive consultations and discussion, it submitted a report on the plight of the most backward communities among Muslims. The government simply acted on the recommendations of the committee. Many have questioned why the government chose the ordinance way and promulgated it on the eve of elections. The fact remains that the study took several years and the government was running out of time.
The Indian Constitution doesn’t allow reservation on the basis of religion and the previous Maharashtra government did not violate the provisions of the Constitution. The five per cent quota was offered on the basis of caste, not on the basis of religion. The same ordinance also offered 16 per cent reservation for Marathas. Within days of it being promulgated, it was challenged in Mumbai High Court. The court rejected the Maratha reservation but upheld quota for Muslim backward classes. Interestingly, the BJP-Shiv Sena government went against that High court order and continued with reservation for Marathas.
The new government of Maharashtra has expressed helplessness saying that the ordinance died a natural death. But it is the responsibility of the government to re-enact an ordinance or convert it into a law. It was a deliberate failure on the part of the government. However, this is expected of the BJP which believes in communal and vindictive politics. The decision was taken only to hurt Muslims.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect our official policy or position. This article first appeared on DailyO.in.