UDF presents united face on scholarship issue

CPI(M) has to balance the Christian and Muslim interests in the LDF

The United Democratic Front (UDF) on Sunday scrambled to stymie speculation that the Congress-led coalition was seriously divided over the government’s 2011 population census based restructuring of the merit-cum-means scholarship for needy and educationally backward minority community students.

The issue came into the political spotlight after the IUML corrected Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan’s remark that the amended award had “not caused any loss” to the Muslim community.

Mr. Satheesan flip-flopped on the issue hours after IUML leader E. T. Muhammad Basheer, MP, said Mr. Satheesan was patently wrong.

Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the UDF would discuss the concerns raised by the IUML. He denied the matter had caused cracks in the coalition.

Meanwhile, the KPCC has banned leaders from making any public statements on the issue.

The church has indicated that it welcomed the decision. The Congress was mindful that any callous statement might offend the Kerala Congress (J), essentially representing the Christian community.

The Congress felt that the CPI(M) might weaponise the issue to unsettle the UDF. The party has repeatedly insinuated that the IUML had eclipsed the Congress in the UDF.

The CPI(M) would also need to walk a tight rope between Christian and Muslim interests in the LDF. The Kerala Congress (M) and INL have opposite views on the matter.

The IUML said the current allocation had cost the community dearly. It violated the spirit of the Sachar committee, which had reserved minority scholarships exclusively for Muslim students.

The LDF government in 2011 had whittled down the scholarship for Muslim students from 100% to 80%. It awarded the 20% hewn out of Muslim allocation to Latin Catholics, converted Christians and other minorities. Subsequently, the 2011 decision paved the way for the current High Court order, the IUML said.

The High Court had declared the 80:20 allocation legally unsustainable and heavily loaded in favour of the Muslim community. It ordered the government in February to rectify the anomaly as per the 2011 population census data.

As per the revised ratio, the minority scholarship quota for Christians is 18.38%, Muslim (26.56%), Buddhists (0.01%), Jain (0.01) and Sikh (0.01%).

An LDF insider said the government had tasked a commission to study Christian backwardness. It might be a precursor of separate scholarship schemes for minority communities shortly.

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