UDF, scrambling to strike a consensus between allies, yet to counter govt. stance effectively

The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) seems to have politically outmanoeuvred the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) on the issue of scholarships for minorities after the Kerala High Court quashed the 80:20 formula for Muslim and Christian communities.

Although the verdict dealt a blow to the State government, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], which helms the LDF, scrambled to give the impression that the prevailing quota was ‘legally unsustainable’ as declared by the court. Subsequently, the Cabinet decided that the scholarship ratio would be restructured by ensuring that no community would be deprived of the existing benefits.

Muslim forums’ demand

The Indian Union Muslim League and other Muslim political and religious outfits such as the Social Democratic Party of India and Jamaat-e-Islami, as well as the Muslim Educational Society, have been demanding that the State government move the Supreme Court against the order of the High Court.

Based on the court verdict, the government is now planning to implement the scholarship ratio based on the 2011 Census data. As such the State has a minority population of 26.56% Muslims, 18.38% Christians, 0.01% Buddhists, 0.01% Jains and 0.01% Sikhs. The Cabinet decided to sanction an additional, non-budgetary sum of ₹6.2 crore for the purpose as a total of ₹23.51 crore would required to distribute scholarships in the revised pattern.

The Directorate of Minority Welfare awards eight types of scholarship for minorities in the State. These are C.H. Muhammed Koya Scholarship, ITC Fee Reimbursement, CA/ICWA CMA /CS Scholarship, Civil Service Fee Reimbursement, Prof. Joseph Mundassery Scholarship Award, Mother Teresa Scholarship, APJ Abdul Kalam Scholarship, and the Urdu Scholarship.

As per the new norms, Muslims will get 59.06% of the scholarships and Christians, 40.87%, as against the earlier 80:20 ratio. However, the Muslim community would not lose anything in the redistribution since additional funds were being allotted, the CPI(M) leadership contended.

The UDF failed to come up with a strong counterargument against the restructuring. Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesthan, who initially welcomed the government decision, dramatically made a volte-face when the Congress’ principal ally, the IUML, flayed his stance.

Two committee reports

Sources said that the Congress-IUML combine could not effectively bring to the public domain the dichotomy related to the reports of the Justice Rajindar Sachar Committee and the Paloli Muhammed Kutty Committee that suggested solutions to address the backwardness of the Muslim community.

At the same time, the CPI(M) deftly dealt with the controversy without buckling under pressure from the Muslim organisations. It managed to strike the golden mean, satisfying the Christian communities too. The party leadership had adopted the same approach when Muslim organisations found fault with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan taking over the portfolio of Welfare of Minorities, sources said.

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