Andhra Pradesh has become the first state to categorise Muslims among backward classes and provide five per cent reservation to them in government jobs and educational institutions.
However, the move has triggered a political storm and hit a legal hurdle with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and other Sangh Parivar organisations raising objection to "religion-based reservations" and warning that it could lead to "communal tensions".
While BJP termed the decision as "yet another reflection of vote bank politics and appeasement of minorities," ruling Congress said it has fulfilled one of its key poll promises and the move would go a long way in addressing the socio-economic problems faced by the minorities.
"It is clear that Muslims are lagging behind socially, economically and educationally. Providing reservations is the surest way to ensure justice," Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy said.
Overcoming an initial legal setback, the Congress government has finally come out with quota system for Muslims who constitute 9.2 per cent of the state's total population of 7.5 crore.
However, the creamy layer among Muslims, with an annual income above Rs 2.5 lakh, will be excluded from the purview of reservations.