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Very few Muslim MPs elected in India

26th Jul 2019

Sajeda Haider

The number of elected Muslim Members of Parliament in the just-formed 17th Lok Sabha (House of Commons) of India is only 27 out of a total of 545, which is miserably low considering Muslims make up 14.2 per cent of the country’s population.

As in the last Indian Parliament, there is not a single Muslim MP sitting on the Treasury benches and all 27 MPs have been elected from opposition parties. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won this election on virtually an anti-Muslim agenda, unlike in the last election in 2014 when he promised the country ‘development’ and Islamophobia was a sub-text.

Five years later, even the fig-leaf of development was dropped and the BJP, led by Modi, went all out on a Hindu Nationalist plank, projecting Muslims as anti-national foreigners who would either be suppressed or chucked out of the country if Modi was elected to power for a second term. The campaign worked, and Modi was returned to power with an even larger majority.
Since it first came to power in 2014, the Modi Government has faced allegations of marginalizing Muslims, politically, electorally and socially across the country.

There has been targeted mob violence against Muslims, mostly under the guise of ‘cow protection’, and of the 46 reported cases of murder and lynching in cow-related violence in the last five years, the majority of the victims have been Muslims (see p1).

Of the 1.3 billion population of India as per the 2011 census, Muslim representation in the 17th Lok Sabha is less than 5 per cent of the total composition. There should be at least 70 Muslim MPs in the Lower House. Muslims have always been underrepresented in legislative bodies.

The highest number of Muslim MPs in the Lok Sabha was in 1980 when 49 legislators from the community were elected mostly from the Indian National Congress under Indira Gandhi – interestingly before the creation of the BJP in 1982. Since then the number of Muslim lawmakers being elected has steadily been declining. In 2004 there were 34 Muslim parliamentarians elected when the INC led UPA Government came to power.

However, the outgoing Lok Sabha has had the lowest representation of Muslims since 1952, when only 23 Muslims MPs made it to Parliament in 2014. This time the number has increased slightly by four, but none from the BJP.

The BJP had fielded only six Muslim candidates – three in the Muslim majority state of Kashmir, two in West Bengal in eastern India and one in Lakshadweep, a group of islands in the Arabian Sea off the coast of south India – and all of them lost. In the past whenever the BJP President Amit Shah has been asked as to why the party fields so few Muslims in elections, he has always replied:candidates are selected on the basis of winnability.”

And it has been proven time and again that no Muslim will be elected to Parliament by BJP voters. The couple of Muslim MPs and ministers that BJP has had over the decades have all entered Parliament through the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House) by virtue of nomination and election by legislators. Muslims have a token presence in the BJP, enough so that the party cannot be accused of being sectarian and Islamophobic.

The states of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and West Bengal, which have considerable Muslim population, have sent six MPs each to the Lok Sabha this time. Significantly, UP, which is the country’s most populous state, did not elect a single Muslim candidate from the 80 MPs it sent to Parliament in 2014. The six Muslims who won in UP this time have been elected through the opposition alliance of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) both regional parties that Muslims and other depressed sections of society normally vote for. They have been elected from constituencies that have large Muslim populations. The same is true of the six Muslim MPs elected from West Bengal.

Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state in India, elected three Muslim MPs, while Bihar, which sent four Muslims in 2014, has sent only two MPs this year. There are three Muslims from Kerala and two from Assam in the new Lok Sabha. Both of these states also have significant Muslim populations.

Professor Gilles Verniers of Ashoka University in Haryana believes that anti-Muslim sentiment stoked by the BJP has led to fewer Muslim candidates being fielded by non-BJP parties.Fearing being tagged anti-Hindu, the Congress and other parties are refraining from promoting Muslim candidates,” said the political scientist.

What has emerged from the election result is that Muslim MPs will only be elected if they are standing from constituencies where Muslims are a dominant force in terms of sheer numbers and where their vote will not get divided among the various political parties.
The BJP has propagated that Muslims always vote en bloc — which is not the case and win elections and therefore Hindus must do the same. It is this religious polarization and Hindu consolidation behind the BJP that has ensured a win for the BJP in 2014 and 2019 general elections.

Lynching of Muslims
by Hindu mobs p1

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