Why Muslims Despite Being Nearly 15% of Population Remain Stuck at 5% in Parliament

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THE COMMUNITY FAILS TO GET REPRESENTATION IN PARLIAMENT COMMENSURATE WITH ITS NUMBERS EVEN FROM STATES AND CONSTITUENCIES WITH SIGNIFICANT MUSLIM POPULATIONS

Nisar Siddiqui | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI – The Muslim votes are considered a staircase to power for the so-called secular parties like the Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Trinamool Congress. Sometimes out of fear of the Hindu Right and sometimes for the protection of their constitutional rights, the Muslims have been tending to vote en masse for these parties. However, the community has never got its due share in larger representation in return for their votes despite having strong arithmetic in their favour.

Let us understand this game of numbers.

After the Hindus, the Muslims are the second largest community in India. According to the 2011 census, the community’s share in population stands at 14.2%. Yet, on an average less than 5% Muslims reach the Parliament. Right now, there are only 5 Muslim MPs from the Hindi-heartland states like UP, Bihar, Delhi, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand. All these states have a significant number of Muslim voters.

The rest of Muslim MPs have mostly come from states like West Bengal, Kerala and Assam.

Now, look at how the Muslims are distributed state-wise. As per percentage, there are 68.3% Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir. It is the maximum number of Muslims in any state. Next comes the border state of Assam, where there are 34.2% Muslims. West Bengal reports 27% Muslims in its large population. In Kerala, the Muslims are 26.6%. There are 19.3% Muslims in UP, the country’s most populous state with around 200 million population.

Bihar boasts 16.9% Muslims, while neighbouring Jharkhand has 14.5% Muslims. In Uttarakhand, there are 13.9% Muslims. Delhi claims 12.9% Muslim population. Karnataka has 12.8% Muslims. In Maharashtra, Muslims are 11.5%. In Telangana, the Muslims form 12.7% of the state’s population. In Gujarat and Rajasthan, there are 10% Muslims in each state. The Union territory of Lakshadweep has 96.2% Muslims.

Right now, there are only 5 Muslim MPs from the Hindi-heartland states like UP, Bihar, Delhi, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand. All these states have a significant number of Muslim voters. — Representational image

Now, let us analyse how many Muslim parliamentarians each state has.

J&K, with more than 68% Muslims, has 6 Lok Sabha seats. But right now there are only three Muslim MPs. It means only 50% of Muslims have reached Parliament from the state.

Assam has 14 Lok Sabha seats. But the state has only 2 Muslim MPs. It means only 14% Muslims from the state have found representation in the Parliament. Similarly, out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal, only eight are Muslims, making their Parliament occupancy merely 19% as compared to their 27% share of the population. In Kerala, out of 18 Lok Sabha seats, only three are occupied by Muslims. It means 16% Muslims have reached Parliament from the state.

In UP out of a mammoth 80 seats, only one (that too via by-poll) has Muslim. In Bihar, only four out of 40 MPs are Muslims. It means only 10% Muslim occupancy in Parliament. Telangana with its significant Muslim population sends only one Muslim MP in Asaduddin Owaisi of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen from Hyderabad.

Besides, in states like Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab, the Muslim representation in Parliament is zero. Even though these states have 8-14% Muslim population.

Senior journalist and expert on Muslim affairs, Akhlaq Usmani, sees three reasons behind the extremely low Muslim representation in Parliament. First, he says, is the manufactured atmosphere of hostility against Muslims. “It means the Muslims may vote for others, but they can’t get the votes of various Hindu sections. They are considered political untouchables,” says Usmani. He adds that if zero of Muslims is attached to 1 of others, it becomes 10, but when others add their 1 to Muslim zero, it ends up being 01.

Second, according to Usmani, is the chicanery of Muslim political families and religious leadership. “They never let Muslims develop a political understanding of their own. Neither grass-root issues of Muslims are made part of political discourse. If Muslims become politically conscious and aware, they may articulate their political concerns in a more assertive and effective fashion,” says Usmani.

Third, he says, is the biased delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies, which has rendered Muslim votes in certain areas merely the vote banks of some political parties. “The Muslim majority seats like Nagina etc have been deliberately reserved for scheduled castes. It has curbed Muslim parliamentary representation. In addition, on Muslim-majority seats, political parties field Muslims and thus Muslims end up pitting against one another. Many a time, Muslim candidates lose only because of this,” says Usmani.

Young Muslims also rue the fact that despite being in such a large number, Muslims lose out to other social groups in politics. Sajid Ali Khan, a student of AMU, laments that 10% Yadavs and 14% Jatavs can produce their own Yadav and Jatav CMs, but, 20% Muslims can’t send a single MP to Parliament.

“If democracy is a representation as proportionate to the strength of population, then Kerala, West Bengal, Kashmir, UP should have Muslim CMs. But they do not. It is because of the Islamophobia that has been in the making in this country for long. Let alone becoming CM and Union ministers, they struggle to become MLAs and MPs,” says Khan.

Professor Mohammed Sajjad of the Aligarh Muslim University says there are many factors which determine the political representation of one social group. “In Indian democracy, only numbers don’t matter to gain political or parliamentary representation. Hindu upper castes like the Brahmin, Rajput, Kayastha and Bhumihar are in the minority if we count their numbers. Yet their political representation remains very high,” says Prof Sajjad.

He adds that if a community desires high political representation, it must have a sound middle class, which can also fund political campaigns. “Muslims not only face adverse socio-political adverse atmosphere, but there is also a certain amount of prejudice against Muslims. Besides, the Muslim community is divided into groups like Ajlaf (backward) and Ashraf (forward). In population, Ajlaf are in majority, but Ashraf enjoy greater political representation,” says Prof Sajjad.

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Nisar Siddiqui is a research scholar at the Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. Views are personal. For comments and feedback, please write to editor@caravandaily.com

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