Rise in Muslim Representation
Muslim en masse favoured parties representing underprivileged classes.
Substantial legislative presence in itself carries no guarantee for upliftment of the community unless it thinks of socio-economic issues in a modern idiom and has a base of NGOs to take the benefits to the grassroots.
Muslim representation in Uttar Pradesh Assembly has risen to the all time high figure of 68 in the elections held during January-March 2012. The last Assembly had 56 Muslim MLAs. The representation this time has reached 17 per cent, very close to being proportional to the Muslim population in the state i.e., 18 per cent. Of these, 42 Muslims have been elected on the Samajwadi Party which has formed the government on its own strength for the first time. Bahujan Samaj Party has 16 Muslim MLAs while four Muslims were elected on the Congress ticket. Peace Party, a secular party led by Muslim leaders, which contested the election for the first time has four MLAs. Qaumi Ekta Dal has two members and Ittihade Millat Council got one of its members elected to the Vidhan Sabha.
Surprisingly, no Muslim could be elected on the ticket of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) led by Mr. Ajit Singh, the Union civil aviation minister. RLDís main vote base has traditionally been dependent on Jats and Muslims. Its floor leader in the previously Assembly Kaukab Hameed Khan lost the contest from his traditional seat Baghpat at the hands of BSPís Hemalatha. Two more stalwarts of the RLD, Haji Yaqoob Qureshi and Shahnawaz Rana lost their seats from Meerut and Bijnore. They had been elected on BSP ticket last time but switched their allegiance to RLD for the just concluded polls. Jamiatul Ulemaís Maulana Mahmood Madani, who himself represents the RLD in Rajya Sabha, had campaigned for the duo.
The 1993 Assembly election saw the Muslim representation dipping to the lowest figure of 25 in a house of 425 members. Following this, Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh. It brought down the number of total seats to 403. Number of Muslim members inched up slowly since then to 33 in 1996, 47 in 2002 and 56 in 2007.
Mohammad Azam Khan, who had been expelled from and readmitted into the Samajwadi Party only recently has again emerged as the most prominent Muslim face of the party. His victory was resounding. He defeated his Congress Party rival Dr. Tanveer by a margin of 63,000 votes. Other prominent Muslims who have been voted to the Assembly are Alam Badi Azmi, Dr. Viquar Ahmed, Mahfouz Qidwai, Irfan Solanki, Kamal Akhtar, Nawab Iqbal Mehmood and Zafar Alam. Zafar Alam is an industrialist and owns lock industries in Aligarh. He was fielded by the SP for the Lok Sabha in 2009 election from Aligarh, but failed to be elected. Surprisingly, none of the 22 successful Muslim candidates on SP ticket to Lok Sabha was a Muslim in 2009 as SP leader Mulayam Singh had brought in Kalyan Singh of Babri Masjid demolition fame into the party leading to Azam Khanís criticism which earned him expulsion from the SP.
Credit for the SPís resounding success goes to single-minded support for the party by Muslim this time, which has also been admitted by Mulayam Singh and his bÍte noire Mayawati.
Interestingly, Mohammad Umar Khan, son-in law of Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Delhi Syed Ahmed Bukhari lost his election from Behat seat in Saharanpur district. He had contested on the SP ticket. Shahi Imam had declared support for the Samajwadi Party following Umarís nomination. This seat was held by SPís Imran Masood, nephew of Qazi Rasheed Masood, former MP. Following Shahi Imamís insistence, Imran was fielded from the seat, annoying Imran who was then adopted by the Congress to be fielded from Nikode seat in the same district. He too lost the election. Unfortunately, no Muslim could win a seat from the Saharanpur district which has as many as 28 per cent Muslims.
Peace Party which entered the fray for the first time in UP Assembly elections received a total of 2.35 per cent votes. Four of its candidates could enter the Assembly, of whom one Mr. Akhilesh Singh has won the Rae Bareli seat. Peace Party leader Dr. Ayub Ansari, a surgeon has himself won from Khalilabad while Malik Kamal Yusuf and Anisur Rahman Saifi won from Domariyaganj and Kanth Assembly constituencies. Peace Party had fielded candidates from 80 constituencies. Mukhtar Ansari, former don, also entered the UP Assembly for the fourth time from Maunath Bhanjan seat in eastern UP. Having a Robin Hood type image, Ansari had floated his own part Qaumi Ekta Dal this time.
Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of Muslim dominated seats among the States in India. As many as 80 Assembly seats have representation of Muslims ranging between 20 to 45 per cent. Rampur has the highest with 45 per cent. Yet in matters of legislative representation, Muslims had difficulty in getting elected. Most of the Muslim candidates lost from Muslim dominated seats as more than one Muslims shared the Muslim votes, handing over the advantage to the rabidly communal parties. The Hindutva wave of 1990s had polarized Hindu votes leading to BJPís spectacular success in several Lok Sabha elections. Now that the voters have ideologically tilted towards the upliftment of socially underprivileged classes, the Muslim representation too has progressed to approximate proportionate numbers. It will be in the interest of Muslims themselves not to raise identity related issues in the elections as it would naturally make the task easy for the extreme rightists parties such as Bhartiya Janata Party to mobilize support on emotive issues.
Mere rise in legislative presence is no assurance to any better future for the community unless the Muslims have a clear perception of the socio-economic issues. Instead of raising issues such as Personal Law, Urdu and Minority rights, Muslim MLAs and ministers must focus on extending facilities such as power, water and roads to the areas of Muslim concentration. Provision of good schools regardless of the medium of instructions, hospitals, welfare schemes for the women, children, disabled, poor and the destitute must be thought off. All energies must be invested in raising a vibrant and educated Muslim middle class in the State in order that the future Muslim leadership could express their needs in modern parlance. It must be understood that Muslims face the same problems that uneducated, unwashed Hindu multitudes face. No amount of religious colour would help solve the problem. The community in the State must develop a band of dedicated voluntary workers who engage themselves in setting up grassroots institutions that help work on a socio-economic and educational agenda rather indulging in religious rabble-rousing.