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Quota row: Poll panel notice to Khurshid on BJP's complaint

The Election Commission Tuesday issued a notice to Law Minister Salman Khurshid, whose promise to provide nine percent reservation to backward Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, if the party won, triggered a strong reaction from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which asked the poll panel to take action against him.

The Congress opted not to comment saying the poll panel was the competent authority to deal with the matter.

The notice to Khurshid, returnable by 5 p.m. Thursday, came after the BJP urged Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi to take action against Khurshid for violating the model code of conduct by announcing a quota for Muslims if the Congress was voted to power in Uttar Pradesh.

Khurshid, however, defended his remarks.

A BJP team, led by its vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, told the Election Commission that the announcement by the union minister was unconstitutional and violated the election code of conduct.

The party said the move would lead to social conflict.

"He made the announcement in the constituency of his wife (Farrukhabad). This will hamper free and fair elections in the state and it is unconstitutional and violation of code of conduct. We demand strict action against him and the Congress party," Naqvi told reporters after the meeting.

Khurshid Monday announced in Farrukhabad, wife Louise Khurshid's constituency, that a nine percent sub-quota for backward Muslims within 27 percent reservation for other backward classes (OBCs) would be provided in Uttar Pradesh if the Congress was voted to power.

Naqvi said the BJP would "oppose the move to hurt the pride of backwards".

"The Congress wants to take away the rights of OBCs by giving religion based quota to minorities... This move will lead to social conflict. We will oppose it on the streets and in parliament."

He accused the Congress of trying to divert people's attention from the issue of corruption to reservation and said the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are "part of the criminal conspiracy to divide the people in poll bound UP (Uttar Pradesh)".

Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi opted not to comment on BJP's complaint.

"Election Commission is a constitutional body and we respect it. The commission will give its decision," Alvi told IANS.

He, however, sought to defend Khurshid's remarks and said the party could increase the sub quota for backward minorities within the existing OBC quota in Uttar Pradesh in accordance with the promises made in party manifesto for 2009 general elections.

"Whatever promises the party has made in 2009 manifesto regarding minorities, it is the party's responsibility to fulfil it," Alvi said.

Khurshid defended his announcement and said the government was working according to the "set-up in the country".

"The government has worked according to the set-up in the country that provides 27 percent reservation for people belonging to backward classes of all religions," Khurshid told reporters.

"This very set-up on the recommendation of the Sachar Committee has been implemented in all central government jobs," said Khurshid.

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