Opposition parties Friday demanded 5 per cent reservation for Muslims in education and government jobs in Maharashtra, but the BJP-led dispensation countered them, saying there is no provision for religion- based quota in the Constitution.
Congress and NCP MLCs vociferously raised the demand in the Maharashtra Legislative Council.
Taking part in a calling attention moved by Manisha Kayande (Shiv Sena), Congress and NCP legislators said despite a large section of Muslims falling under the economically weaker section, the state government has failed to offer any reservation benefits to the community in education and jobs.
However, Minister for Higher and Technical Education Minister Vinod Tawde said the ruling BJP cannot go against constitutional provisions regarding quota.
"Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar had categorically mentioned at the time of drafting the Constitution that reservation should not be provided on the basis of religion.
"The BJP, as the party in power, cannot set this provision aside and offer reservation to Muslims."
He said the Congress-NCP combine was in power for many years in Maharashtra (1999-2014), but did not offer reservation to Muslims.
Tawde said the real reason behind the opposition's quota demand was political and electoral.
"The real reason behind such aggression is that the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi had eaten into their votes (in the just held Lok Sabha polls). They (Congress- CP) are not talking about the measures we have taken up for the betterment of the community," the BJP minister said.
The Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), a social coalition of Dalits, OBCs and Muslims, dented the prospects of Congress- NCP candidates in nearly a dozen Lok Sabha seats in the state.
The front has been formed by Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar in alliance with AIMIM chief Assaddudin Owaisi.
Tawde said sections in the Muslim community were already getting benefits of the existing quota system.
He said "OBCs among Muslims are already covered under the existing reservation for Other Backward Classes. Also, some Muslims will benefit from the 10 per cent reservation granted to economically weaker sections."
Tawde's comments triggered an uproar in the house with opposition MLCs up on their feet to register their protest, forcing adjournment of proceedings.