Behind the Legislative Deprivation
Muslim representation in the Lok Sabha and legislatures across the states in India is coming down election after elections. While some sections of Muslims have been pleading for reservation for the community in legislatures, a more worrying aspect has skipped the attention of the community i.e., seats and segments with Muslim preponderance being reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SCs). This robs the community of the prospects of victory such constituencies offer the contestants.
The political reservations for the SCs and STs have proved a boon in empowering these sections who were kept away from positions of power and influence in the country for centuries. Thanks to the proportionate reservation of constituencies, their representation in seats of power has gone up beyond the numbers they deserved. But it is unfortunate that this is being done at the cost of Muslims who are being deprived of getting elected from their areas of concentration.
Several Lok Sabha constituencies where Muslim represent more than 25% have been reserved for the SCs as a general pattern. For instance, Karimganj Lok Sabha seat from Assam where Muslims constitute 59% of the voters, is a SC-reserved seat. Bijnore, Bulandshahar, Bahraich constituencies in Uttar Pradesh (Muslim voters ranging between 35 and 40%), Birbhum in West Bengal (35% Muslims), and Gulbarga and Bijapur (25% Muslims) figure in the list of SC-reserved constituencies. Curiously, in some of these constituencies scheduled castes make up less than ten per cent of the voting population. Evidently, the reservation for scheduled castes is being done at the cost of deprivation of legislative representation of Muslims who stand a better chance to get elected from the areas and segments of their dominance, if not exactly preponderance. Almost a similar pattern is visible in state legislatures, mainly in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar.
Much against the outcome of the last Delimitation exercise, the National Commission to Review the Constitution set up by the former National Democratic Alliance Government (which had presented its report in 2004), had recommended that the next Delimitation exercise should strive to consolidate the minority concentration pockets into constituencies in order to enable them to enhance their representation. It seems the recommendation has gone totally unheeded. The Muslim representation in the current i.e., 15th Lok Sabha stands at mere 28, coming down from 33 in the previous Lok Sabha. Several large states such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand have no Muslim representative in Lok Sabha although Muslims have a considerable presence there.
Muslims should take up the issue with all parties that believe in fairplay and justice, and demand that the next Delimitation exercise is called earlier than it is due, to set right the anomaly.