Who is to Blame for the Disappearing Muslims in India’s Parliament?

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Perhaps it is time for Muslims to chart out a strategy to float a political party of their own, as they have seen that the secular parties have not delivered the desired results for the community.

Asad Mirza | Clarion India

THE results of the 2024 general elections in India have yet again proved that the common voter is the ultimate kingmaker: one who believes in democracy (lok tantra) and is not easily hoodwinked by the system/machinations (tantra). Further, about 67% of the Indian voters are still secular; they were browbeaten to take a back seat due to the high decibel campaigns by the Hindutva forces to silence and intimidate them.

The confidence with which the top brass of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi plunged into the electoral fray in 2024, belied its expectations, finally, and many say saved the country from falling further into an abyss of intolerance and majoritarianism.

Despite a servile media, which throughout the election campaign became the mouthpiece of the ruling dispensation, and which, once the process had ended, predicted more than 400 seats for the BJP, as per Modi’s slogan ‘Ab ki baar 400 paar’ (This time 400 plus) had to eat a humble pie.

To say that BJP had no inkling of the coming fate would also be a mistake. This is evident by the fact that immediately after the first phase of the electoral process Modi changed track and resorted to his old way of sowing the seeds of communalism through his speeches, targeting the Muslim community, crying and even claiming himself to be a demi-god. However, all his pranks failed as voters refused to fall prey to his guiles.

Additionally, what is more interesting here would be to analyse the factors, which were responsible for the BJP’s defeat, and which in fact will also shed light on the role played by the Muslim community.

In 2024, 78 Muslim candidates were fielded by different political parties, out of them 24 won the polls and now the community has a share of 4.42% in the parliament. In the 2019 elections, 115 Muslim candidates had contested and 26 won. It means the current Lok Sabha will have two less Muslim MPs. The only time when the percentage of Muslim MPs in parliament was near two digits was in the 1980 elections, with 49 Muslim MPs securing 9.04% of the community’s representation in parliament.

There are only 15 Muslim-majority Lok Sabha constituencies, and in a further eight Muslims are in a dominant position, bringing the number of Muslim-influenced constituencies to just 23. In the 15 constituencies, the BJP had nominated Muslim candidates in six (two more than in 2014) and the Congress in nine (three more than in 2014).

This year, the BSP fielded 35 Muslim candidates, the highest among all political parties. The Congress was next, with 19 Muslims, while the TMC had the third-highest number of Muslim candidates in the fray this time. The Samajwadi Party (SP) fielded just four Muslims, three contested from Uttar Pradesh, while the fourth was fielded from Andhra Pradesh.

The maximum number of Muslim candidates contested in UP (22), followed by West Bengal (17), Bihar (seven), Kerala (six) and Madhya Pradesh (four). Assam, among the highest in terms of share of Muslims in the population, had three Muslim candidates, down from four last time.

One reason for the increasing number of Muslim candidates winning in 2024 was the INDIA bloc. Muslims generally voted for the Samajwadi Party or the Congress in the last elections. In 2019, the Muslim votes were divided between Congress and the SP, as they contested separately. But this time the SP and the Congress remained together, so we can say that the Muslim votes remained consolidated.

The diminishing number of Muslim legislators could be attributed to the fact that most opposition parties shied away from giving tickets to Muslim candidates, fearing a polarising contest since the BJP’s advent to power. This accounts for under 5% of the strength of the Lok Sabha, much lower than the overall population of Muslims in India, which stood at 14% in the 2011 census.

The reasons for the anti-Muslim consolidation in 2024 can be found in the consecration of the Ram Temple and the dominance of the Hindutva narrative in all spheres. At the policy level, there were apprehensions about the Modi government’s moves on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC): many viewed them as government tools to isolate the community. Additionally, inter-community relations deteriorated further with increasing incidents of lynching occurring with impunity.

However, though one may sound happy that so many Muslim candidates won, this also offers an opportunity to the so-called Muslim religious, political and social leaders and even common Muslims to pause and reflect on whether the BJP’s loss is their victory or not.

Besides going into the more obvious question of BJP’s hatred towards the Muslims, both as the party’s candidates and electorates, the results should make us think where the Indian Muslims are standing 77 years after independence.

Have they been successful politically, economically, educationally or socially or have they gone down the ladder, looking for affirmative action from successive governments? Has the community done enough on their own to achieve success?

Though, by and large, Indian Muslims have since 1947 hitched their wagon to the secular parties, they have not been able to form a political party of their own with an all-India presence and acceptability. What should be construed as the reason behind this lackadaisical approach? A lack of desire or an inability on their part?

Well, recently a video surfaced on X, showing a religious scholar saying that he does not endorse the Muslims’ desire to support a Muslim political leader. It is religious leaders like them who have always betrayed the Muslim community and have always sabotaged any plans by Indian Muslims to rise politically and this results in poor representation of Muslims in parliament.

Perhaps it is time for Muslims to chart out a strategy to float a political party of their own, as they have seen that the secular parties have not delivered the desired results for the community. Further, to obliterate the blame of being appeased they need to assert, demand and deliver their political future.

 

*Asad Mirza is a Delhi-based senior political and international affairs commentator. The views expressed here are his own and Clarion India does not necessarily concur with them.

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