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Friday, July 11, 2008

Mayavati's carrot for Muslims

TAPAS CHAKRABORTY

Lucknow, July 11: Mayavati has lined up job and education sops to try and win over Muslim voters from the Samajwadi Party in the backdrop of the nuclear deal controversy, Bahujan Samaj Party sources said.

The Uttar Pradesh chief minister is likely to offer an “economic package” relating to jobs for the community and pensions for madarsa teachers, a source said. Among the “long-term” carrots could be a university for Muslims.

By this weekend, she is expected to announce more funds for the Urdu Academy, which is a key demand of Muslim clerics who have met her recently.

In exchange, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) sources said, she expects Muslim leaders to continue to voice their opposition against the Indo-US deal.

Mayavati has been portraying the deal as “anti-Muslim” ever since the Samajwadis pledged support for it. Between July 2 and 9, she met leading Shia and Sunni clerics four times, promising quick redress for their community’s grievances. Each time, her publicity department sent pictures to newspapers showing the chief minister flanked by Muslim community leaders.

Mayavati has now set up a panel of BSP leaders — including party general secretary S.C. Mishra, senior minister Nasimuddin and Muslim community leader Siraj Mehendi — to suggest projects for the minorities.

“The clerics told her the Urdu Academy gets Rs 12 crore in Andhra Pradesh and Rs 5 crore in Delhi, but only Rs 30 lakh in Uttar Pradesh,” a source said. “They also mentioned how a proposal to award pension to madarsa teachers had been hanging fire.”

“She agreed to address the issues immediately. She also expressed concern at the falling percentage of Muslim job-holders,” Mehendi said.

Mayavati is said to have promised to ask industrialists to try and improve job opportunities for Muslims. The chief minister, the sources said, also wants to have more Muslim ministers and MLAs.

Five of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s 25 ministers and 26 of his 186 MLAs were Muslim. He had appointed members of the community to top posts.

Mayavati is not too badly placed in comparison, having five Muslims in her 50-member ministry and 29 MLAs from the community among the BSP’s 206.

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