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June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.    Wishing You All a Happy New Year.       June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019

MUSLIM REPRESENTATION

Declining number in Parliament

Syed Nooruzzaman

The Muslims in India constitute the second largest religious group in the country, but they remain underrepresented in almost every field, including politics. The 2019 parliamentary election results show that the community will be represented by only 27 members in the Lok Sabha.

Though the number of elected Muslim members of Parliament has risen from 23 in 2014 to 27 in 2019, this is too little for a community that constitutes 14.2 per cent of the country's population, according to the 2011 census figures.

The Muslim political representation has been declining since 1980 when the community had 49 members in the Lok Sabha. That was the year when Indira Gandhi, the then Congress supremo, had claimed that she did not need the community's support to win the second general elections held after the end of the national emergency imposed by her as Prime Minister on June 25, 1975. She proved what she had claimed owing to her disappointment with the Muslims, considering them as a monolith which they were not. She did not bother about the Muslim support till she breathed her last --- assassinated in 1984 by her own security guards.

Most political analysts have, however, argued that the community’s marginalisation began with the rise of the BJP as the biggest political force in the country. Today the BJP is the only winning party which has no Muslim Lok Sabha member though it gave its ticket to three Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir, two in West Bengal and one in Lakshadweep and all got defeated.

Two other interesting developments have occurred during the 2019 parliamentary polls. One, the Congress, which once had many elected Muslim MPs, today has just one representative in Parliament and that too from Punjab. The outgoing Lok Sabha had 23 Muslim members and they either belonged to the Congress or the Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee. The Congress did field six Muslims to contest the elections on its ticket from UP alone but all of them got defeated.

Two, though five of the 22 Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha members belong to the minority community, the party suffered a good dressing-down at the hands of the BJP because Mamata was frequently seen with Muslim religious personalities and visited Muslim institutions more than any other political leader.

The Muslim political representation has been declining since 1980 when the community had 49 members in the Lok Sabha. That was the year when India Gandhi, the then Congress supremo, had claimed that she did not need the community's support to win the second general elections held after the end of the national emergency imposed by her as Prime Minister on June 25, 1975. She proved what she had claimed owing to her disappointment with the Muslims, considering them as a monolith which they were not.

The BJP’s unprecedented electoral performance and the Congress party’s poor show are being seen as indicators of a new political climate emerging in the country. People have lost their faith in the capacity of the Congress, the grand old party of the country, to provide a government which can make them hold their head high in the comity of nations as proud Indians.

Reports indicate that this led to a large number of Hindu voters, mostly fence-sitters, deserting the Trinamool. As a result, many analysts have drawn the conclusion that the development resulted in an increasing number of nonMuslim voters having gravitated towards the BJP, which won 18 seats in West Bengal, a record performance for the saffron party in a state earlier ruled by the Left Front for over two decades.

As is the case with West Bengal, UP, population-wise the biggest state which sends 80 members to Parliament, has six Muslim MPs belonging to the SP and the BSP. Bihar, which in 2014 had sent four Muslim MPs to the Lok Sabha, will now have only two members from the community.

Three Muslim MPs are from Kerala while two are from Assam in the 17th Lok Sabha. The rest of the 27 Muslim MPs belong to Telengana, Maharashtra, J and K, etc.

How does the community feel about its merely 4.42 percent representation in the Lok Sabha with over 14 percent population share in the country? Interestingly, there is a belief at the ground level that Muslims as members of the Lok Sabha have been found to be the least interested in endeavouring for a solution to the problems the community faces. During discussions with many Muslims this writer has gathered the impression that the community believes that the number of Muslim representatives in Parliament give only psychological strength to it; there is little gain in real terms.

The BJP’s unprecedented electoral performance and the Congress party’s poor show are being seen as indicators of a new political climate emerging in the country. People have lost their faith in the capacity of the Congress, the grand old party of the country, to provide a government which can make them hold their head high in the comity of nations as proud Indians.

The voters’ overwhelming support to the Narendra Modi-led BJP is a clear expression of their faith in his ability to look after the country’s interests confidently. However, when the people have so much expectations from the new government, though under the same leadership, they will be judging its actions too closely. One can easily guess how they will react if the government fails to perform in accordance with the people’s wishes.

In this context, Syed Sadatullah Husaini, the head of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, the most influential Muslim religious organisation, has expressed the hope that the “ruling class will work for the welfare and development of all Indians, irrespective of their caste, class and religion, and discharge their constitutional duties serious and honestly… He also reminded the new government of its responsibility to strengthen the sense of security in the weaker sections and minorities.”

Very few Muslims can be found to be shedding tears for the crushing defeat of the Congress as they believe it has only been using the community to remain in power, rarely showing seriousness about the minority’s educational and economic uplift. That is why Muslims have begun to extend their support to any party that fits in with their scheme of things. Reports suggest that over 5 per cent Muslim voters exercised their right of franchise in favour of the BJP during the just concluded polls.

The new government at the Centre needs to instil a sense of confidence in the minority community that no one would be allowed to take the law into one’s own hands and indulge in heinous crimes like lynching of people or intruding in their residential places on any pretext. Prime Minister Modi, who has promised to do all he can to uphold the Constitution, must get tough with those who try to disparage the country’s image through their vigilantism or other such acts.

Ours is a plural society which must not be allowed to be damaged by irresponsible individuals and groups who have their own destructive agenda to pursue. Under no circumstances should divisive politics be allowed to be promoted in the name of caste, class or community in the larger interest of the nation. Everybody must be allowed to confidently and fearlessly contribute to the cause of nationbuilding by creating an atmosphere in which there is no threat to the rule of law.