A day after distancing itself from Law Minister Salman Khurshid's remarks on reservations, Congress on Saturday tied itself in knots, saying it favoured further increase in job quotas for backward minorities in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress also said that there should not have been a ban on the Centre's decision on 4.5 per cent reservation for minorities in jobs as it was taken prior to the poll announcement.
The Election Commission had directed the Centre to put on hold the implementation of its decision on job quotas for minorities in the five poll-bound states.
Khurshid had triggered off a controversy by promising to increase the sub-quota for OBC Muslims in Uttar Pradesh by 9 per cent, a remark dubbed by Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi on Friday as the "individual view" of the law minister.
"It is an individual view. It would be better if you ask Khurshid for his reaction in the matter. There is inner party democracy in our party," Alvi had said on Friday in response to a volley of questions including whether the party saw anything wrong with the minister's statement.
Today, Alvi said the Congress party, in its 2009 Lok Sabha election manifesto, had promised to provide reservation to OBC Muslims on the lines it had done in Andhra Pradesh.
"The manifesto for Uttar Pradesh elections is being readied. We are trying to increase this (4.5 per cent) percentage and that will be in our manifesto for UP elections," he said.
On the EC's decision, Alvi said, "Though the EC has put the reservation decision on hold, we are of the view that any party which goes to polls will find itself in a difficult position if it does not talk about its manifesto."
Alvi said that Khurshid called him on Saturday morning and clarified that he had not mentioned any definitive figure like 9 percent but talked about it being between 8 to 9 percent.
"Our view is that the Election Commission has the responsibility to conduct fair polls in the country. The EC is a constitutional body and it should be beyond criticism. We will not comment on its orders even if anything goes against us. But our opinion is that we had announced the decision (on 4.5 percent reservation for backward Muslims) well before the election dates were announced. According to us, there should not have been any ban on that decision," Alvi said.
He evaded direct answers on specific queries on whether it was proper for the law minister to announce a figure even before the manifesto for the state election was out.
"It has to be calculated. I can't say how much it would be. But Salman Khurshid is also the chairman of the manifesto committee for the state," Alvi pointed out, suggesting that Khurshid might have said it as he was aware of what was being finalised in the party manifesto.
Sources said the party is likely to announce an increase to 8.5 percent reservation for backward minorities in Uttar Pradesh.
Asked why he distanced himself from Khurshid's remarks on Friday, Alvi merely said, "We do not say anything different from what we decide in our manifesto".
He said the party, as promised in its 2009 Lok Sabha election manifesto, will provide reservation to backward minorities everywhere including Uttar Pradesh on the line of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.