The BJP’s high-pitched promises to abolish decades-old minority quotas for socially backward Muslims has stirred up a hot cauldron of controversies in election-bound Telangana. The quota issue has become the most contentious poll plank, triggering a war of words between parties over constitutionality and electoral ethics.
BJP Trains Guns on 4% Muslim Quota, Vows to Revoke It
The highlight of BJP’s high-octane campaign has been its vocal opposition to the existing 4% reservation in education and government jobs for economically weak Muslims classified under the BC-E category.
Addressing a series of rallies, senior BJP leaders including Home Minister Amit Shah have termed the quota as “unconstitutional” votebank politics and vowed to scrap it if elected. The promise also features prominently in BJP’s manifesto for the November 30 Telangana polls.
Parties Slam BJP for ‘Stoking Communal Fires’
Expectedly, BJP’s anti-quota rhetoric has stoked massive outrage. Regional heavyweights including ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and Congress have flayed BJP for subverting Constitution and minorities’ interests to secure electoral gains.
Defending the quota, Congress said it covers only most backward Muslim groups and falls within the 50% ceiling set by judiciary. AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi questioned the rationale behind the PM endorsing welfare schemes for deprived Muslim sects while Amit Shah paints their quota as unconstitutional.
What Explains BJP’s Aggressive Anti-Minority Push?
Experts feel that raking up the sensitive Muslim quota issue serves multiple electoral objectives for BJP. Targeting minority benefits helps rally its core ideological base. It also amplifies BJP’s ideological differentiation with regional parties.
Attacking the decades-old Muslim quota also puts the Congress in a bind and allows BJP to counter accusations of covert ties between BRS and AIMIM. Moreover, the heated quota debates help divert attention from governance issues.
Other Goodies Offered to Woo Telangana Voters
Apart from quota controversies, BJP has also offered a bouquet of freebies including overseas trips, financial aid, jobs and steps like revival of closed sugar factories to woo voters and bolster its pro-poor credentials.
To specifically attract Dalits and tribals, Shah offered more reservation for SCs and internal quota within SCs for Malas and Madigas. But the focus remains firmly fixed on quotas.
Despite the high-pitched campaign, BJP faces extremely slim prospects in the polls. In 2018, it managed less than 20% vote share compared to over 45% polled by BRS. Breaching KCR’s fortress remains an audacious uphill task.
BRS Dismisses BJP Threat, Congress Smells Upset
Dismissing BJP’s chances, BRS points to the steady stream of defections from BJP to its fold. It remains confident of returning to power riding on welfare schemes, regional pride and Telangana identity cultivated under KCR’s leadership. Congress however hopes anti-incumbency may outweigh BJP’s Hindutva focus.
Legal Battle Over Quota Likely Irrespective of Verdict
Irrespective of electoral verdicts, the fight over quotas is inevitably headed to courts. Amit Shah’s unilateral announcements have set the stage for fresh legal wrangles over Constitutional validity of religion based reservations against the 50 percent ceiling.
If BJP assumes power, parties defending minority quota will have to pass fresh legislation to restore status quo, triggering more friction with Centre. Meanwhile, petitions in Supreme Court challenging enhanced quotas also loom ahead.
Uncertain Future for Minority Quotas
The imbroglio over Muslim quotas has introduced new schisms in Telangana’s hard-fought poll battle. While electoral outcomes will reveal the people’s mandate on these issues, the legal-political skirmish around minority entitlements is far from settled either way. The marginalized communities impacted wait and watch anxiously amid the gathering storms.