BRS, Congress Race to Win over Muslim, Minority Voters

Hyderabad: With the state Assembly polls getting close, the BRS and Congress have stepped up their targeted minority outreach programmes for communities of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis.

As per the 2011 Census, Muslims account for 13 per cent of the minority population in the state, with Hyderabad housing 17.13 lakh of 44.65 Muslims. It is estimated that the population of Muslims is currently around 54 lah.

The Christian population, accounting for 5 lakh, are largely concentrated in Hyderabad and Rangareddy districts, with a lower presence in Medak, Nalgonda and Warangal.

While the Congress is trying to capitalise on minority votes by highlighting unfulfilled promises of the BRS government, the BRS is banking on welfare schemes — Shaadi Mubarak, Minority Residential Schools, 20 lakh overseas scholarship for students, Ramzan Tofa, Christmas gift scheme, official Ramzan and Christmas celebrations in all districts since 2014, payment of monthly honorarium to Imams and Muezzins — to win the Muslim vote.

Among Congress’ claims against the BRS is that the state government shut 50 minority engineering and professional colleges out of the 56 sanctioned by the Congress regime in undivided Andhra Pradesh. Further, the Congress was claiming that the BRS was planning to cut reservations for Muslims from 4 per cent to 3 per cent.

The BRS government had also promised a sub-plan in the Budget for Muslims, on the lines of SC and ST sub-plans, an increase in reservations for Muslims from 4 per cent to 12 per cent, construction of the Islamic Cultural Centre, setting up of Wakf Commissionerate on par with Hindu Endowment Commissionerate, launching a scheme to encourage entrepreneurship among minorities, on the lines of SCs, STs, for whom T-Pride scheme was introduced.

However, none of these promises were kept

This apart, the BRS manifesto for Assembly polls released by Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao on October 15 had no specific mention of minority welfare schemes or developmental programmes. The BRS manifesto had just a one-line mention, stating “Minority welfare will be increased”, which, is also being highlighted by Congress.

Sources said that Muslims were upset with the government for stopping bank-linked subsidy schemes to the community for setting up their own industries or units over the past five years. Another issue was the closure of several Muslim educational institutions in the private sector, mainly professional colleges, due to an alleged lack of support from the state government.

Minorities said that the Minority Bandhu launched by the BRS government in July to extend Rs 1 lakh financial assistance to them in setting up their own units for self-employment, failed to reach them due to a lack of funds and adequate time for implementation.

While the disbursal was started in October, it was abruptly stopped due to the implementation of the model code of conduct.

The Congress, meanwhile, is gearing up to release its Minority Declaration soon. It will reportedly promise a Rs 5,000 crore sub-plan in the Budget for the welfare of Muslims and other minority communities.

In the 2018 Assembly polls, the TRS (now BRS) won all 40 seats with at least 10 per cent Muslim population of the total 119 constituencies in the state.

BRS circles say the party bagged 75 per cent of the Muslim votes in the state in 2018 due to AIMIM’s support, which is continuing this time around too.

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