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No to Muslim candidate for by-election, says Minister

25th Dec 2020
No to Muslim candidate for by-election, says Minister

Sajeda Haider

A minister in the Indian state of Karnataka has openly declared that Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s ruling-Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is Islamophobic. Kuruba Sharanappa Eshwarappa, Minister for Rural Development in the southern federal state has categorically announced that the BJP will not field a Muslim candidate for the Parliamentary by-elections.

“Whether we give (candidature) to Kurubas or Lingayats or Vokkaligas or Brahmins (Hindu castes), we will not give to a Muslim”, declared the Minister. The Parliamentary seat of Belagavi in Karnataka fell vacant when the sitting BJP MP Suresh Angadi, also a junior minister in the Modi government, died of Covid-19 in September.

Even though the Election Commission has not announced a date for the by-election yet, Eshwarappa wanted to make it very clear that Belagavi was the centre of ‘Hindutva’ – the name the BJP gives to its ideology of being a religion based Hindu party – and the BJP would not be fielding a Muslim candidate from there under any circumstances. “We will give tickets to Hindutva proponents only”, clarified Eshwarappa.

Though Eashwarappa’s comments may sound shocking, it is an open secret that the RSS’s long-term goal is to relegate Muslims and other religious minorities to second-class citizen status and deny them representation in political governance. The RSS is the ideological fountainhead and parent organization of the BJP which aims to turn India into a Hindu nation run for and by Hindus.

The BJP has gone a long way in achieving its Hindu ‘rashtra’ (country) goal ever since Modi first became Prime Minister in 2014. There has not been a single Muslim MP on the Treasury benches either in the 16th or 17th Lok Sabha (House of Commons) formed in 2014 and 2019 respectively by the BJP and its allies.

Of the total 545 elected MPs in the Lok Sabha currently, there are only 27 Muslim MPs and all are from Opposition parties, not one is elected from the BJP. This is still better than the Lok Sabha of 2014 when Muslims had the lowest representation since 1952 with only 23 MPs, again elected from Opposition parties.

Muslims constitute 14.2 per cent of the 1.3 billion population of India (2011 census) and accordingly, there should be at least 70 Muslim MPs in the Lower House. However, Muslims always being under-represented in legislative bodies, but since

2014 the situation has worsened. In the current Lok Sabha, Muslim MPs make up less than 5 per cent of the elected representatives.

In the 2019 general election, the BJP had fielded only six Muslim candidates from all over the country – 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. It has been proven time and again that no Muslim has yet been 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 so that the party cannot be accused of being sectarian and Islamophobic.

The same is true of India’s State Legislatures. In states like Gujarat where the BJP has been in power for decades, the party did not endorse a single Muslim candidate in 2007, 2012 or 2017 Assembly elections, hence there has been no Muslim representation in the state government for nearly two decades.

In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar which have 19 per cent and 17 per cent Muslim populations respectively, it is a similar story. In 2017 when the BJP won a landslide majority in Uttar Pradesh, it did not have a single Muslim Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA).

More recently in the Bihar Assembly election last month (November) the BJP/ JDU coalition won a controversial victory, but for the first time in Bihar’s history, there was not one Muslim MLA on the winning side. Not fielding Muslim candidates has become the norm for the BJP, and it passes off its sectarian policy by claiming that it only fields ‘winnable’ candidates.

If the BJP continues to win elections in India in the manner it has in the last six years, then Muslims will find themselves completely marginalized from political governance.

 

[Map of India by University of Texas library/Creative Commons]

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