The Congress criticised the BJP-led Karnataka government for its decision to scrap reservation for Muslims under Category 2B in the OBC list and declared that it would restore the quota to the minority community in the event of the party coming to power in the State, where Assembly elections are due by May.
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Saturday said the religious minorities quota would be done away with and brought under the 10 per cent pool of the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) category without any change of condition.
The 4 per cent reservation given to Muslims under 2B classification of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category will now be divided into two equal parts and added to the existing quota of Vokkaligas and Lingayats for whom two new reservation categories of 2C and 2D were created during the Belagavi Assembly Session last year.
Congress called it "unconstitutional"
President of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) D K Shivakumar termed the step "unconstitutional". "They (the government) think that reservation can be distributed like a property. It's not a property. It's a right (of minorities)", he told reporters here. "We don't want their four per cent to be scrapped and given to any of the major communities. They ((members of the minority community) are our brothers and family members".
"Entire Vokkaligas and Veerashaiva-Lingayats are rejecting this offer," Shivakumar claimed. Exuding confidence that the Congress party will come to power in the "next 45 days", he said, "we will scrap all this" and added that there is no basis to remove Muslims from the OBC list.
Charging the Basavaraj Bommai-government with trying to rake up "emotional issues" as it's set to lose the polls, Shivakumar said as party president, he wants to declare that the first meeting of the Cabinet, in the event of Congress coming to power, would take a decision to restore the quota.
A Congress statement said the move has caused great consternation and a sense of injustice in the minority community. It alleged that shifting of Muslims to the EWS quota is per se unconstitutional and is an attempt to deceive the minority community.
"EWS quota is founded upon economic status and income. It is not based upon caste or religion. A member of any caste or religion would anyway be entitled to EWS reservation based on his or her economic status," the party said. "How is the (Basavaraj) Bommai government then making false claims of shifting Muslim minority to EWS quota?"
Muslim leaders too have slammed the decision and have said they would challenge it in the court. Some top Muslim religious leaders of Karnataka on Saturday held a meeting where they denounced the move and vowed to fight it out legally. They also called it a political move by the BJP government to win the upcoming Assembly election.
(With inputs from PTI)