Vanishing Muslims from India's political landscape

Last Updated: Mon, Apr 08, 2019 13:03 hrs
Islam and Muslims

Muslims have become politically marginalized in the country over the decades. For many of the 200 million strong Muslim population in the country, this is a rather very depressing thought. There are many states within the country where, despite having a sizeable Muslim population, there was no political representation of Muslims in the state assembly. It was particularly true in states where the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) government was in power. In Madhya Pradesh where Muslims formed 7 percent of the population, there was only a single Muslim MLA in the state assembly. Similar was the condition in Chattisgarh, where there was no Muslim representation in the state assembly. The condition of Rajasthan and Gujarat was no better.

Similar is the case of Parliament where Muslim representation has nose-dived over the decades. From 49 Muslims in the Parliament in 1980, there were merely 22 Muslims MPs elected to the 16th Lok Sabha.

Shrinking numbers in state assemblies

Madhya Pradesh is a case in point where Muslims despite making close to 7 percent of the population have become completely politically marginalized. Year after year and election after election, the representation of Muslims in the state where they once wielded power, has become dismally low. As many as fifteen assembly elections have been conducted in the state following the Independence, and mostly there has been negligible representation of Muslims in the Hindi heartland state. In the assembly election held in November last year, when the Congress roared back to power after remaining in political oblivion for fifteen long years, the state elected only two Muslim MLAs. In the previous election held in the year 2013, only a single Muslim was elected to the state assembly. The state sends 230 MLAs to the assembly and the state legislature must have at least 16 MLAs from the minority community.

The same is the condition of Muslims’ political representation in Gujarat. The state, under BJP, has seen complete political marginalization of the community. The representation of the Muslims in the state that has total strength of 182 seats has been rather negligible and steadily going down. In the year 2012 the state, where Muslims make at least ten percent of the total population, there were only two Muslim MLAs in the assembly. In the last assembly elections held in the state towards the end of the year 2017, condition remained similarly dismal with only three Muslims being elected to the legislature. Ideally, going by the Muslim population in the western Indian state, there should be at least 18 Muslims in the state assembly.

In the assembly elections held in Rajasthan in the year 2013, only two Muslims were elected to the state assembly. Earlier, the state had elected 12 Muslim MLAs in the state in 2008 assembly elections. In the assembly elections held last year, when the Congress party romped home, eight Muslims were elected, seven on Congress ticket and one on Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket.

The dwindling number of Muslim legislators in state assemblies can be attributed to the saffron surge across the country, particularly areas known as Hindi heartland. The marginalization is so clear and acute that it simply seems unbelievable. In the assembly elections held in five states in the year 2013, merely eight Muslims were elected out of a total of 589. Elections were held in In Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram. The number of Muslims in these five states is collectively around eight percent. Given their population in these states, at least 47 Muslim MLAs should have been elected there.

The same scenario played out in Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims make 20 percent of the state’s 200 million people. The saffron surge in the year 2017 saw the Muslims number go down to just 24 in the state assembly. It was almost one third compared to the number of Muslim legislators in the outgoing assembly. In the 2012 assembly elections, the electorates had sent as many as 68 Muslim MLAs to the state assembly.

Shrinking space for Muslims in Parliament

Similar is the condition of Muslims in the Parliament. Their representation in the parliament has gone down over the years with 2014 Lok Sabha electing the lowest number of Muslims. Only 22 Muslim MPs were elected on different parties’ ticket to the Lok Sabha. There are 545 seats in the Indian Parliament. A balanced representation of Muslims should ensure that at least 81 Muslims are elected to the Indian Parliament. But this is a dream yet to be materialized. The highest number of Muslims elected to the Indian Parliament was in the year 1980 when as many as 49 Muslims were elected on different parties’ ticket. In the next Lok Sabha elections held in 1984 the number went down to 42. Since then the number has never gone beyond 34. It was in the year 2004. In the next Parliament only elections in the year 2009, only 30 Muslims were elected to the Lower House of the Parliament.

UP, the most populous state in the country from where 80 MPs are elected, not a single Muslim was elected to the Lok Sabha. The saffron surge that hit the state ensured that not a single Muslim could win from the state. Even from constituencies where Muslims are in majority including Rampur, Moradabad, Sambhal, Amroha and other constituencies, the division of Muslim votes among different political parties saw Muslim candidates lose elections to BJP candidates by small margins. Based on Muslim population, at least 16 Muslims should be elected to Parliament from Uttar Pradesh alone, but the state didn’t elect a single Muslim candidate.

Gujarat that sends 26 MPs to the Lok Sabha, the representation of the Muslims, who make ten percent of the state population, is pathetic. For the last thirty years, no Muslim has made it to Lok Sabha from the state. Gujarat has not elected a single Muslim since 1989 when seasoned Congress leader Ahmad Patel tested defeat. Similar is the case of Madhya Pradesh where not a single Muslim has been elected to Parliament in eons. Ideally, given their ration in the population, at least two Muslims should have been elected from the state. But the increasing level of communalism and the resultant polarization means that this doesn’t happen.

Christophe Jaffrelot, while writing in his book, 'Majoritarian State: How Hindu Nationalism Is Changing India' says, "The formation of a Hindu vote bank by the BJP, which in particular aimed to sideline minorities in the political arena, prompted other parties as well no longer to nominate Muslim candidates, except in areas with a high Muslim majority. This tactic was especially clear in the Congress’ case, which the BJP accused of cultivating a Muslim vote bank by showing concern for their social and economic condition – a false claim if one goes by the impoverishment of Muslims under the UPA regime."

He goes on to add, "This underrepresentation, linked to the boom in Hindu majoritarianism, was reflected at the government level by an unprecedented situation. Only two members in the first Modi government – or less than 3% – were Muslims in 2014. Both had come from the Rajya Sabha (the upper house), given that there was none among the BJP MPs in the Lok Sabha and that only MPs can be appointed as government ministers in India."

More columns by Syed Ubaidur Rahman:

Electoral arithmetic doesn't support BJP narrative

Muslim vote as crucial as anyone else's in general election 2019

Kamal blooms in MP, but Muslims condemned to same old treatment

Will Dalit-Muslim-Yadav alliance stop BJP juggernaut in UP, Bihar?

BSP-SP alliance minus Congress party is an advantage for BJP

Why VHP's efforts to exploit Ram temple proved a dud this time

Asia Bi and the misuse of blasphemy law in Pakistan

Hashimpura massacre by police– Finally, a semblance of justice

Will Owaisi-Ambedkar alliance in Maharashtra benefit the BJP?

Modi with Syedna: PM's Muslim outreach is a lost cause now

Mob lynching in India - The menace is growing