Karnataka Muslims and Electoral Politics
By Quazi Arshed Ali, MLC
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J. C. Nagar
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Price: Rs. 250, Pages258
Reviewed by Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
The state of Karnataka assumed its present shape in 1956 following re-organisation of states on linguistic basis. It was a major gainer because prior to it, it consisted of only nine districts of Old Mysore State inherited from the Maharaja. It nearly doubled in size with
several districts from Madras and Bombay Presidencies and Nizam’s Hyderabad state joining the new entity. Consisting of
disparate administrative zones and diverse cultural background, it lacked emotional integration for decades together. Such traits linger even now and impact its politics. Diversity of the past had its impact on Muslims too. The princely hangover continued for
greater length of time in three districts of erstwhile Nizam state, i.e., Bidar, Gulbarga and Raichur. Even today, they identify more closely with Hyderabad in terms of culture than the political entity of which they are part now.
While the reorganization benefitted the Lingayats the most, who established an overwhelming sway over the politics and administration, cultural and linguistic barriers kept Muslims from developing a cohesive vision of political empowerment in the state. This is reflected in their underrepresentation at all levels of political administration in the state. Despite constituting 13% of the State’s population the Muslim suffer from severely deficient representation in legislatures. Author Quazi Arshed Ali, a journalist from Bidar and currently a member of the Karnataka Legislative Council, has dredged out immense data to prove the political and legislative deprivation of the community during its 65 years of history. Data has also been supplied with some insightful analysis and should come handy for all those who are striving for political empowerment of the community.
Karnataka Assembly has 224 Assembly constituencies. Currently it has nine Muslim members. Contrast this with Lingayats who have a 14% population share but have 56 MLAs i.e., 26% share in the Assembly Membership. Similarly, Vokkaligas who constitute 12% people of the State have 52 MLAs.
Karnataka has so far witnessed 13 Assembly elections and 15 General elections for the Parliament. But the Muslim representation in the Assembly has hovered between 2 to 5 %. Zenith was reached in the Assembly elected in 1978, when 17 Muslims could reach the stately Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore. But in the very next election i.e., in 1983, the number touched the nadir with only two Muslims managing to win.
Muslim representation in Karnataka Assembly has hovered between two and five per cent.
The record in the Lok Sabha as been equally dismal. Only once i.e., in 13th Lok Sabha elected in 1999, three Muslims could make it to the winning post. In the current 15th Lok Sabha, there is no Muslim MP from Karnataka. Even otherwise the representation has oscillated between miserable one to pathetic two among 28 from the State.
Muslim being more urbancentric than other communities, the representation at the third tier i.e., Panchayat level has been abysmal. The situation in Zilla Panchayats is much worse. There are only 15 Muslims in the 30 Zilla Panchayats currently. Of the 175 Taluk Panchayats, there is no Muslim representation in more than 100 panchayats. As for Rajya Sabha, only 12 Muslims have so far been elected to the upper house and only for only for a period of two years the representation reached a maximum of three.
Muslim political fortunes in the State have been mainly tied with the Indian National Congress. Whenever the Congress was returned to power, the Muslim representation surged and declined with their exit. The party is still hot favourite with the Muslim voters. Even the plum ministries came the way of the Muslim legislators only during Congress rules. While in the first two ministries there was no ministerial representation for Muslims, the 1999 proved the major boon with Chief Minister S. M. Krishna publicly acknowledging the massive support of Muslim inducted five of them into his cabinet. While Janata parivar parties indulged in tokenism, the BJP government in its second avatar under Sadananda Gowda has even denied a cabinet berth to their most ardent votary Prof. Mumtaz Ali Khan in the cabinet.
Thin spatial distribution denies Muslims the benefit of their numbers
The latter half of the book disappoints as a host of old articles have been included without updating of information or editing. They do not gel with the contents of the first half. While author must be lauded for certain premonitions regarding the delimitation of the constituencies”which were testified by the later developments”it would have been better had they been contextualized with the present situation. The effort to identify broader contours of Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies where Muslims have better prospects of success should also be appreciated.
The book stops short of suggesting remedies for the political under representation but broadly hints at dynamics of first-past-the-post system which plays part in denying effective representation to communities with wider and thinner spatial spread. The two major communities i.e., Lingayats and Vokkaligas have principally benefitted from their demographic concentrations in distinct zones while Muslims who are equally numerous, fail to translate their numbers into Thin spatial distribution denies Muslims the benefit of their numbers. Muslim representation in Karnataka Assembly has hovered between two and five per cent. effective representation and thereby deprivation in terms of empowerment.
Written in simple language, the book is successful in focusing on the key issues in politics for the community. Proofing and grammatical mistakes leave some bitter taste but could be overlooked in view of the larger purpose the book serves.