Congress government of Karnataka on November 30 was caught off-guard in Assembly over the controversial Shaadi Bhagya Scheme promising Rs 50,000 to minority girls on their wedding. So far the government was maintaining a silence on this issue while countering the opposition parties. But now the government’s admission about the scheme has generated anguish among the majority communities and the people are in the streets against the discriminating scheme. The common belief is that economically weak people are in every community, therefore the government should not indulge in appeasing Muslims and neglecting poor people of other religions.
In reply to an unstarred question by Shri LA Ravi Subramanya of BJP, who sought to know if the government was extending the Shaadi Bhagya Scheme to all communities, the government said it is considering doing that. When BJP member R Ashok pointed out the bungle, the Congress was completely on the back foot. Interestingly, an hour before that, R Ashok was strongly countered by the treasury bench for referring to the Bidai Scheme as Shaadi Bhagya. The government, later, withdrew the answer to save its face. Earlier, opposition parties demanded Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to set aside Rs 100 crore to extend the scheme to BPL families of all castes.
Deputy Leader of Opposition YSV Datta urged the state government to formulate schemes keeping the poor in mind, but not caste. In reply, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister TB Jayachandra reiterated that the government is open to consider the demand. Not satisfied with the reply, BJP and KJP members staged a walk out. While leaving the House, BJP members shouted slogans against the Congress of being communal. Senior Congress leader Janardhana Poojary also advised Siddaramaiah to extend Shaadi Bhagya scheme to all sections of the society.
Describing the scheme that is now open only to the minorities as “divisive”, the BJP accused the Congress of failing to uphold secular principles. Earlier, KJP president BS Yeddyurappa, who had staged a 23-day dharna in Bangalore and a three-day dharna in the Assembly demanding extension of the scheme to all communities, alleged that the scheme would affect social harmony. The Janata Dal (Secular) has also suggested the government to extend the scheme to all communities so that it would not be possible for anybody to take political advantage of the situation.
The physical and financial target of beneficiaries earmarked for this financial year under the scheme is 1,000, which will cost the ex-chequer about Rs. 5 crore at the rate of Rs 50,000 per beneficiary. Subject to 13 conditions, the scheme promises household goods and cash to Muslim brides from economically backward families. The circular sent by the Directorate of Minority Welfare to the Deputy Commissioners makes it clear that the number of beneficiaries cannot cross the target and the “poorest” have to be selected from among the applicants. The district-wise break-up shows that the highest beneficiary target set is for Bangalore city at 135 and the lowest Chamarajanagar at six.
However, a section of Muslims feels that schemes of this kind serve a narrow purpose. KM Ashraf, State secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, said the scheme should be need-based rather than having fixed targets.
The Karnataka government seems blind for appeasing the Muslims. Apart from the Bidai Scheme, Karnataka Darshan scheme of the government has also generated anger. The government issued an order on November 6 directing district authorities to organise study tour ‘Karnataka Darshan’ for students belonging to OBCs and minority community studying in government schools. The order covered around 9,000 students and 300 students from each district would be selected for the tour. The government has set aside Rs 3.15 crore for this. Earlier, the scheme was available only for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe children. Even the Congress leader Janardhana Poojary advised CM Siddaramaiah not to discriminate among school children while sending them on excursions. Similarly, KJP president BS Yeddyurappa slammed the government’s move and termed it as “divisive in nature”.
BJP spokesperson S Suresh Kumar alleged that the Congress government is sowing seeds of caste and communalism among students by identifying children by the move. Terming the move as ‘anti-social’, he wondered on what grounds the students from other castes and communities have been left out and asked the Congress to practise secularism, instead of indulging in mere speeches.
Muslim appeasement by Congress does not stop here. Last month G Parameshwara, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee had crated uproar when he said it does not matter if members of the minority community do not repay the loans sanctioned by state-run Karnataka Minority Development Corporation. He even suggested the Karnataka Minority Development Corporation to sanction huge amount like Rs 50 lakh to Muslims. “Never mind if the beneficiaries do not repay the loans,” he said amid a thunderous clap by Muslim audience.
—Venugopalan in Bengaluru