The UPA has goofed up again. That in itself is not so surprising given its propensity to err every now and then. Unfortunately, the entire country has suffered due to the government's repeated mistakes. What is significant is the way in which the Supreme Court hauled up the ruling dispensation on Jun 11 for mishandling a "sensitive issue".
The apex court did not appreciate the shoddy manner in which the government sought to challenge the Andhra Pradesh High Court order quashing the sub-quota of 4.5 per cent for "socially and educationally backward" classes belonging to religious minorities.
The HC had observed that an Office Memorandum regarding creation of the sub-quota was based on religious grounds and not on any other intelligible consideration. In the Supreme Court, Attorney General G E Vahanvati argued that the AP High Court was wrong as backwardness of certain communities is the real issue and not their religion per se.
The SC judges pointed out that the statutory bodies and commissions which are supposed to determine the degree of backwardness do not seem to have carried out such studies so far. Besides, the government did not produce before the Andhra Pradesh High Court any data to support the quota.
When Vahanvati claimed that the sub quota for some Christians and Muslims is in accordance with the Mandal judgement of 1993, the judges asked whether the contentious provision will affect rest of the candidates in the 27 per cent for the backward classes.
Vahanvati admitted that they will be "marginally" affected. His reply gave the game away. Clearly the Congress did not think about the serious implications when it introduced the sub quota in Dec 2011.
The move was aimed at garnering additional votes of Muslims in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections held during Feb 2012. The party's crown prince Rahul Gandhi was leading the campaign and it was apparent even then that Congress would fare disastrously.
The sub quota was the party's desperate gamble to prevent an all too certain humiliation. However, Muslims in UP saw through the Congress game plan and royally ignored its candidates.
Amazingly, Congress leaders continued to harp on the sub quota after the rout. Party chief Sonia Gandhi and her advisors believe that they can still win over the Muslims in Gujarat, Karnataka and the other states due to go the polls in the coming months. If only wishes were horses!
This is not the first instance of the Congress being upset over judgements passed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court. In 2004, 2005 and 2007, the YS Rajasekhara Reddy-led government earmarked a 5 percent quota for the state's Muslims in jobs and educational institutions. On all three occasions, the HC struck down the provision.
Congress is supposed to be a centrist party, yet it feels that minority appeasement is an integral part of secularism. When will realisation dawn that it is labouring under a misconception?