By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: There is no mistaking it. It is the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) which calls the shots in the United Democratic Front (UDF). The Front may be led by the Congress. But when it comes to taking decisions on crucial matters, it is the IUML which has the last word. Congress leaders may deny it. But that is the stark reality.
The latest issue on which the Congress blinked when the IUML objected to its stand relates to the restructuring of the minority scholarship as per the 2011 census. The leader of the Opposition, V D Satheesan had initially supported the Government’s plan to restructure the scholarship ratio following the Kerala High Court’s objection. Satheesan had had claimed that the Muslims would not lose anything because of the Government’s move to restructure the ratio following the High Court’s order, which had struck down the Government’s decision in 2015 to allocate the scholarship to Muslims and Lathin Catholic Christians and converted Christian communities in an 80: 20 ratio, and asked the Government to restructure the ratio on the basis of the 2011 census.
However, Satheesan executed a neat somersault in the wake of strong objections from the IUML leadership. IUML leader E T Mohammed Basheer opposed the Government’s move to decide the ratio on the basis of the 2011 census, saying that it would amount to a betrayal and cannot be accepted. Other prominent IUML leaders like P K Kunhalikutty, KPA Majeed and Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal also came down heavily on the Government. Their objection was that the Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee had recommended an exclusive scheme for the Muslims and the Government’s move to revise the scholarship structure would mean a big loss for the Muslims. The Sachar Committee had suggested 100 per cent benefits for the Muslims. It was the Paloli Mohammed Committee set up by the former LDF Government headed by V S Achuthanandan for implementation of the Sachar Committee report which had sabotaged the scheme by recommending a 80: 20 ratio, the IUML leaders contended.
The Muslim leaders said they would not allow the benefits meant for the Muslims to be compromised under any circumstances. They said they had no objection whatsoever if the Government brought a separate scheme for the Christian communities. But to use the Sachar committee recommendations to extend the benefits to the Christian community was unacceptable. In fact, the Government has set up a Justice Koshi committee to recommend a separate scheme for the Christian community. The Government should await the report of that committee instead of playing politics over the Sachar committee report. That is the contention of the IUML leadership.
Succumbing to the brinkmanship politics being resorted to by the IUML, the Congress has meekly decided to form a common front against the State Government – an idea floated by the IUML leadership. The strategy is to take a strong stand on the matter and erase the impression that the UDF is divided over the highly sensitive issue. The UDF leadership had been rattled by the stand taken by the PJ Joseph faction of the Kerala Congress welcoming the Kerala Government’s move to restructure the scholarship ratio following the Court’s order. The UDF is simply not in a position to further alienate the Christian community, a big slice of which had voted for the LDF in the Assembly elections. Feeling the pressure being exerted by various Muslim outfits, the Congress also convened an emergency meeting on the issue. The meeting decided to form an expert committee and appeal to the Government against the decision that made the Sachar Committee report insignificant. Briefing the media on the outcome of the online meeting, IUML Malappuram district president, Syed Sadiq Ali Thangal Said the hurt caused by the government’s decision is palpable within the community irrespective of their political affiliations. The IUML has been asked to take the initiative to address the issue without hurting the sentiments of other communities. Hence the decision to form an expert committee by including representatives of all organizations to address the matter, he added. The Committee, Thangal said, would meet the authorities concerned, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, and press for the implementation of the Sachar committee report. “It is not a question of denying any aid for other backward communities. We will try to convince other communities too,” said Thangal.
Meanwhile, the State Government has decided to move the Supreme Court against the Kerala High Court’s order nullifying the minority scholarship ratio fixed by it. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the State Assembly, currently in session, that the Government has decided to approach the apex court based on legal advice. The Chief Minister deplored attempts to create a controversy over the minority scholarship issue. The CM assured that the Muslims will not lose any benefits they are being offered. To ensure this, the Government, the CM said, has allocated an additional amount of Rs 6.2 crore for the annual scholarship.
IUML MLA PK Basheer, however, countered the CM’s argument, saying that the party could not agree to the current scholarship allocation. That move, he said, is violative of the sprit of the Sachar Committee recommendations. The Union Government, he claimed, had constituted the Sachar Committee to study the backwardness of Muslims alone. The Committee had recommended that minority scholarships be entirely reserved for students from indigent Muslim families.
This was strongly objected to by LDF Independent MLA, K T Jaleel. He said the second United Progressive Alliance Government at the Centre had extended the benefits to minority communities as per the spirit of the Sachar Committee report. It did not limit the benefits to Muslims alone, Jaleel argued, adding that the Sachar Committee had also recommended the creation of a Minority Development Department and not a Muslim Development Department to address minority backwardness in the country. Jaleel, who was the minister for minorities in the Pinarayi Vijayan 1 government, drew the attention of the IUML that late CH Mohammed Koya, who was chief minister for a brief period, had brought Hindu Nadar and Christian girls under the ambit of scholarship to mitigate educational backwardness.
Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan, however, accused the Government of trying to create rift between religions. He alleged that the State Government’s failure to avail of central grants had resulted in lapse of 17,000 pre-metric scholarships which provide a big amount to students. If one State failed to allot the sanctioned scholarships, another State will get it. In this case, it is the Uttar Pradesh government which will be benefited by the Kerala Government’s serious lapse, Satheesan pointed out.
In another significant development, the IUML held an online meeting with various Muslim organizations the other day. The meeting, IUML leaders said, would elicit the views and opinions of various Muslim organizations on the State Government’s decision to restructure the scholarship ratio. Muslim organizations including Samastha, the EK and AP factions, attended the meeting on the instructions of the IUML supremo Panakkad Hyderali Shihab Thangal. (IPA Service)