Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine


RABI-UL-AWWAL / RABI - U - THANI
MAY 2004
Volume 17-05 No : 209
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Editorial


Going Beyond Numbers

Going Beyond Numbers

A study by Prof. Iqbal A. Ansari of Centre for Federal Studies, New Delhi, (it was featured in this monthly too) has brought to light gross under-representation of Muslim minority in the Parliament and state Assemblies in India. Except for the Lok Sabha elected in 1980 and 1984 (when the Muslim representation went up to 78 per cent of what their numbers deserve) ,the communityís representation has ranged between 45 to 53 per cent. Similarly in the state Assemblies, the Muslim representation has been just about 50 per cent on an average, though there are regional and periodic variations.

The study, as it should and coming as it does from the Centre for Federal Studies, justifiably suggests several Constitutional remedies to rectify the anomaly. These include making the political parties accountable for social-cum-gender diversity, Proportional Representation System, Multi-member constituencies in order to accommodate even the best losers as second members and Mauritius model whereby women or minorities could be assigned the membership of the house.

The recommendations are laudable. It all depends on the goodwill of the nationís lawmakers to consider them in order to impart to the polity a shape that reflects its social composition. The Indian Muslim community needs to look beyond this.

Multi-party democracies and first-past-the-post system are notoriously deficient in reflecting the social composition and grassroots political strengths. Similarly, they assign to influential parties and classes a much higher slice of legislative strength than they deserve. It is perhaps here that Muslims developed an internal mechanism to translate their numbers into proportional legislative share as well as grow politically assertive.

It is worth pondering as to why even in a state like Kerala, while 25 per cent Muslims have been able to elect just two Lok Sabha members during the last six general elections, the 22 per cent Christians send as many as seven MPs to the lower house of Parliament. The contrast perhaps makes it evident that numbers do not naturally translate into legislative power, notwithstanding their seminal value. Communities with talented individuals, better socio-economic profile, noticeable contribution to the life and development of the society and better institutional network manage to claim a better and at times disproportionately large share.

Similarly, political leadership in politically dominant communities such as Patels in Gujarat, Marathas in Maharashtra, Lingayats and Vokkaligas in Karnataka, Reddys and Khammas in Andhra Pradesh, Nadars and Mudukalthurs in Tamil Nadu had a distinct background. Professional institutions such as banks, cooperatives, educational institutions, and even religious mutts have helped them nurture individuals who were to assume political responsibilities later. Thirdly, most politicians from these states rise from among the ranks of advocates, bankers, men with base in cooperatives or media. While the men or women trained in these grassroots institutions get trained in the development work, they impart them a socio-economic vision and grassroots touch with the populace and thereby become stepping stones to legislatures. The Muslim community has shown scant attention to this trend. Perhaps a study of some such communities would be helpful in understanding the social composition of current polity in India and the men and women who make or mar destiny of people.

Hindsight suggests that Muslim political thinking fails to comprehend the nexus between educational and socio-economic development and political assertion. They go hand in hand and are directly proportional to each other. Christians in Kerala are able to call the shot merely because the community has invested hugely in professional education, media, banks, health and social welfare sector. Their total weight translates into their noticeability and thereby into winnability, something that no political party can ignore. Muslims come off poorer on this score.

It is fine to pursue proportional representation as a democratic ideal. Effort should be on to secure justice on this front. But the community should not lose sight of the fact that it is intellectual and economic resources of a people that ultimately count in electoral competition. There have been fewer attempts to understand this larger picture offered by the complex Indian polity.

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News Community Roundup Editorial Letters Trends Exclusive Communal Harmony Men, Missions and Machines Opinion People Track Guidelines Muslim Perspectives Children's Corner Community Initiative Quran Speaks to You Hadith Travelogue Religion Question Hour Rabi-ul-Awwal Our Dialogue Reflections All About Life Women in Islam Journey to Islam Time Off Ads & Ideas Matrimonial
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