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Are ministers close to PM being targeted?

By Renu Mittal
September 11, 2010 23:43 IST
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Is there a calculated design in the Congress party to target ministers close to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?

After Union Home Minister P Chidambaram it now appears to be the turn of Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, who is under attack by Congressmen both within and outside the government.

After party leader Kesava Rao's attack against Sibal, All India Congress Committee General Secretary Digvijaya Singh on Saturday cautioned the Minister saying that his ministry should shift its focus from higher education to developing the school system.

Singh said, "the HRD minister should pay more attention to the development of school education and skill development centres, than stressing on higher education".

Besides Singh, Union Minorities minister Salman Khurshid is also preparing for a full-scale war against Sibal.

Salman had been involved in a face off with Chidambaram over the Enemy Property Bill with Chidambaram having to give up his determination to bring in an ordinance, a move that was thwarted by Khurshid.

It is learnt that the latest round of firing concerns the minority status of Jamia Milia Islamia with Salman asking the minister to declare it a minority institution while Sibal continues to insist that it is a nationalist institution.

The issue began with Salman writing to Sibal asking him not to tamper with the minority status of Jamia university.

The HRD minister replied back by saying, "Jamia has never been declared a minority institution."

Sibal said that since it was born out of a nationalist movement against the British, it is a nationalist institution and not a minority institution.

But sources close to Khurshid point out at least three facts to show the minority nature of the institution.

If it is not a minority institution, then why has there been no non-Muslim Vice Chancellor appointed there. Secondly, why is Urdu the base language of the university; and thirdly, is why do all the functions start with the recitation of the Quran.

The point being emphasised is that the name Jamia Milia Islamia means the Islamic University of the people.

According to the Supreme Court order 50 per cent of the seats should be left free for the general category, while there is already 22 per cent reservation for the scheduled castes. The argument being advanced by Khurshid is that if Jamia is not declared a minority institution, then 27 per cent reservation would be given for the OBCs leaving just one per cent for the Muslims.

This, sources say, would be a grave injustice to the Muslim students and would also politically affect the Congress in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere.

While Khurshid is intervening in this issue as the Union Minorities Affairs minister, he also has a very personal interest in the university since it was started by his grandfather Zakir Hussain, who was the third President of India.

He has deep links with Jamia Milia and his private residence is also located on the premises there.

Sources say that if the friction between the two ministers escalates, it is likely to go to Rahul Gandhi since Khurshid is an MP from UP and Rahul would not like any steps taken which could send a negative image of the government amongst the Muslim community.

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi