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Home > News > PTI

Antulay remains figurehead minority affairs minister

December 27, 2006 11:59 IST

Veteran Congress leader A R Antulay remained largely a figurehead minister of minority affairs in a new portfolio created by the Congress-led government in the year 2006 that ends amidst a raging political debate over alleged "Muslim appeasement" ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.

Instead, he spoke about losing powers before having used them in less than two months of taking charge. "I did not ask for it (minority education) but it was there under original work allocation. It was withdrawn in a second notification on February 28," he had said in March after his induction into the cabinet in January.

The diminutive 77-year-old leader, a staunch loyalist of the Nehru-Gandhi family, said he expected more from United Progressive Alliance chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But through the year, the former chief minister of Maharashtra, had to function mostly from his home or from a makeshift office as the permanent office allotted to him at Lodhi Road was not ready for use.

His activities in 2006 included moves to increase the Maulana Azad Education Foundation's corpus fund from Rs 100 crore to Rs 200 crore. The minister also presented in the Lok Sabha the report of the Sachar committee on Muslims.

The report drew flak from the Bharatiya Janata Party, which called it an attempt to please the community for votes ahead of elections in several states, including key Uttar Pradesh. The action-taken report on the finding of the Sachar committee is expected early in 2007.

Antulay's ministry also finalised the 15-point programme for minority welfare announced by the prime minister earlier in 2006.

Amidst the row over reservations in November the minister insisted that the private sector provide jobs to minorities, SCs, STs and backward classes. He also suggested an independent commission on the lines of the UPSC be set up in this regard.

"Private sector should be told in no uncertain terms that they should set apart certain portion of their resources for the purpose," he said. He also sought a "comprehensive" definition of minorities and the creamy layer.

Antulay's ministry is also the nodal ministry for the National Commission for Minorities, which conducted a string of inquiries, mainly into complaints of religious rights violations in non-Congress states, in 2006.

The NCM sent its teams to Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. In Gujarat, the NCM came out with stinging observations on the rehabilitation of Muslim victims of the 2002 riots in the BJP-ruled state.

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