In a big gamble fraught with legal and political hurdles, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) has decided to give 12% reservations to Muslims in educational seats and government jobs with immediate effect and plans to increase the total reservations from present 50% to around 68%.

Telangana State Legislative Assembly and Council would be meeting on Sunday, 16 April, to pass a law on reservations to Muslims. The exact percentage of reservations to Muslims would be stated in the Bill to be presented in the House. After passing the Bill, the state would send it to the Centre for its ratification and Presidential nod.

Depite a Supreme Court ruling that prohibits total reservations beyond 50%, KCR is gambling on the quota hike. There are doubts over the NDA government at the Centre clearing the quota as the BJP in Telangana has threatened to oppose reservations on communal grounds.  

But KCR has asserted that “If the Centre doesn’t allow us to offer quotas, we will knock the doors of the SC and there are precedents in the country where the total reservations are above 50%”. As of now, Muslims in Telangana have 4% reservations introduced by the late Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy-led Congress government in 2004. Presently, Telangana has 50% reservations to all categories put together. Of this, Backward Classes (OBCs)have 29%, Scheduled Castes (SCs) 15% and STs 6%.

After the proposed Bill is passed by the Assembly on Sunday, the quota breakup will be as follows: BCs 35% (including 10% to Muslims), SCs 15% and STs 10%, totalling 60%. If KCR has his way, Telangana would be the only state in the country which offers the highest 10% reservations to Muslims, according them the status of BCs. As this move is opposed by the existing BCs, who are afraid that their quota would be diluted, the CM has proposed to increase that quota too within six to seven months. Then, the total quota in Telangana would reach around 75%, may be the second highest after around 80% quota in the tribal populated North-East states.

KCR on Wednesday issued orders to Telangana BCs Commission, a statutory body, to determine the list of BCs and suggest reservations to each caste, to identify the new castes and new percentages to different castes in tune with the requirements of the new state that been formed three years ago. The Chief Minister had mandated the BC Commission to submit a report to the government with “quantifiable” and “impeccable data” on the social and economic conditions of Muslims and other BCs.

Telangana BC Commission member Juluri Gowri Shankar told The Sunday Guardian on Friday that the commission would tour the state and submit its report before the six-month deadline, by October end. The commission may add some more BC castes to the existing list of 113 castes and some of them might be categorised as most backward classes (MBCs), he said. Representatives of the Muslim community have welcomed KCR’s move and Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen leader in the Assembly Akbaruddin Owaisi urged the CM to see to it that there were no legal hurdles to it. “We will definitely oppose the decision to accord 10% reservations to Muslims as it is nothing but appeasement of religious groups,” BJP Telangana president Dr K. Laxman  said. He said  that even the existing 4% quota, too, was struck down by the courts many times.

The other opposition parties, Congress and TDP are muted in their response, but are apprehensive of the backlash from the forward castes. “The government seats and jobs are shrinking day-by-day and the so-called forward castes will have to compete for the limited open category,” said a Congress MLA on the condition of anonymity. Sources in the government told this newspaper the CM is planning to implement the Tamil Nadu practice of adding 25% (if the quota touches 75%) extra seats to the colleges so that the open category students don’t lose their opportunities.

Union Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu opposed reservations to Muslims on religious grounds. “If Muslims are given reservations on communal lines, we will be creating another Pakistan,” he said.


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