IUML, Congress at odds with LDF govt’s decision to restructure minority student scholarship

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Differences have cropped up in the Congress-led UDF in Kerala over the LDF government’s decision to restructure the minority student scholarship ratio for Muslims and backward Christians in the state as per the 2011 population census. While the Congress “partially” welcomed the state government decision, its key partner in the UDF, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) opposed it, alleging betrayal by the state government.

Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, V D Satheesan, on Saturday initially welcomed the state government decision, saying it was taken considering the opposition demand that no community should suffer any loss while implementing the new scheme.

The Congress leader, however, was forced to issue a clarification few hours later after IUML protested saying the Muslim community suffered a huge loss due to the state Cabinet’s decision to introduce a new scheme for providing scholarship for minority students in the state.

The state government on Thursday decided to restructure the minority student scholarship ratio after the Kerala High Court quashed the 2015 state government order providing scholarships in 80:20 ratio to Muslims and Latin Christians and Converted Christians, saying it was “legally unsustainable.” “The scholarship ratio will be restructured in such a manner that no community will be denied the benefit,” the government has said.

In his first statement to the media today, Satheesan welcomed the decision, saying the main demand of the UDF was not to reduce the number of scholarships being provided to the students (belonging to Muslim community).

The UDF had also demanded that scholarships be given to other minority communities, he said, adding no community suffered any loss due to the government decision.

Following the protest by Muslim League leaders, Satheesan met the media again and alleged that the state government did not accept the UDF formula completely.

Clarifying his stand, Satheesan said his statement was misinterpreted and what he said was that the government only accepted the formula partially.

He said the government should also address the grievances of the Muslim League and added that the UDF will discuss the matter. Top IUML leaders including Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal, P K Kunhalikutty, E T Muhammed Basheer and KPA Majeed came out openly against the state government, alleging that Muslim community lost an exclusive scheme formulated based on the Sachar Committee recommendation due to the government decision.

Noting that the Sachar Committee was costituted to study the backwardness of the Muslim community, IUML leaders said the government schemes formulated based on the Sachar committee recommendations should be provided exclusively to the Muslim community.

They also urged the government to introduce other programmes to resolve the backwardness of other communities.

“We do not welcome the decision of the state government.We will fight against it inside and outside the state Assembly,” Kunhalikutty told reporters in Malappuram.

The differences within the UDF over the issue have come as a blessing in disguise for the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF which was anticipating a huge campaign by Muslim League, targeting its votebase in the Muslim community.

Attacking the IUML, CPI(M) acting secretary A Vijayaraghavan alleged the League leaders were trying to create division in the society.

He claimed that the government decision was welcomed by all except for IUML.

“The court recommended the change.The decision (to introduce the new scheme) was taken by an all-party meeting.The League’s argument is now irrelevant,” he told reporters in Alappuzha.

The government has said the scholarship ratio will be restructured without the eligible sections losing the number and amount of scholarship.

As per the census, the state has a minority population of 26.56 per cent of Muslims, 18.38 per cent of Christians, 0.01 per cent Buddhists, 0.01 per cent Jain community and 0.01 per cent Sikh population.

“A sum of Rs 23.51 crore is required for distributing scholarships and the cabinet meeting decided to sanction a non-budgetary allocation of Rs 6.2 crore,” the government has said.

The high court had directed the Left government to pass appropriate orders, providing merit-cum-means scholarship to members of the notified minority communities within the state equally and in accordance with the latest population census available with the State Minority Commission.

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