Number of Muslims in the lower House of Parliament has hovered
between 22 and 33 in recent decades.
By An Election Analyst
For an average Muslim voter in India going to vote in a Lok Sabha Election, two concerns are uppermost in mind, i.e., to ensure that his vote goes to the candidate from a secular party and secondly, Muslim community gets proportional representation.
Lok Sabha has 542 elected members. In order that the Muslim community gets proportional representation, it should have 72 MPs in Lok Sabha. This target has never been achieved. The number has hovered between 22 and 33. Only in 1980, forty nine Muslims could get elected to the Lok Sabha.
To begin with Muslims have no reservation in legislature. After the Partition of the country, it was not possible for the community to demand it as it was in a total state of demoralization. It cannot be demanded even now, as it leads to communal backlash and lends grist to the communalists’ mill.
An alternative way to enhance Muslim representation is to seek nomination of Muslim candidates by political parties from the Muslim dominated Lok Sabha constituency. These are roughly 45 to 50, most of them in UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam and a couple of them in Kerala. A Muslim dominated constituency should have a Muslim component of 30 to 40 per cent of Muslims. But in this case, all secular parties field a Muslim candidate in the fray and thereby to the victory of a candidate from a communal party. This none-too happy situation leaves no alternative in the hands of the community. After all it is party bosses, executive committee or election committees that pick and choose or decide the candidate.
In this situation, apolitical groups should come into action and seek to tilt the weight of the community in favour of those candidates who might appear to be most winnable and also the ones who preferably can win the confidence of other social groups. For this, apolitical groups should engage in elaborate exercise to gauge the electorate’s mood, and see to it that their choice represents the majority of the community.
Building pressure within the political parties to nominate more Muslims is one way to assert politically. But then parties go by winnability of the candidates and winnability takes into account individual credentials, background, qualification, engagement with people, caste configuration of the voters, voting track record in the constituency, issues that make a party or the candidate popular or unpopular. Unless a Muslim comes with high rating on winnability graph, his or her nomination will not be possible. Apolitical groups that are formed at the eve of elections cannot engage in this exercise as the community voters should have had sufficient time at their disposal to test the credentials in identifying the candidates.
It has to be borne in mind that Indian voters are generally secular minded and decide their choices by the delivering potential of the candidates. It is therefore necessary that Muslims groom future politicians who have sufficient track record in social service. Candidates who are rabble-rousers or rake up emotional issues, or who have a record in instigating communal passions should be scrupulously kept away. Similarly, it is evident from the background of the Lok Sabha members that most MPs have either been advocates or journalists or caste leaders. And from the states from Gujarat till down South Kerala, most MPs are emerging on the social and political scene through cooperative or banking sectors. It is essential that future Muslim politicians cut their teeth in these sectors or occupations and arrive at the political scene.
It is a myth that Muslims vote in large numbers and vote en bloc i.e., to a party or candidate. Their political choice is as diverse as the majority community’s. It is therefore necessary that the members of the community are trained to vote on the basis of party’s ideology, programme and policies. This needs constant debate and discussion within the community forums on issues. Currently, no such discussion takes place. Voting merely on the basis of secular / communal divide does not help much. The community should learn to have a relook at its socio economic priorities and needs. Similarly the entire community should be trained to participate in the political process which begins from registration of voters to participation in the political parties to funding elections, formulation of programmes and policies and canvassing etc. A study by Karnataka researcher Honnurali had delineated fifteen stages for the political participation.
Muslim Dominant LS Seats
There are only 14 Lok Sabha seats where a Muslim candidate can win by polling only Muslims votes. Four of them happen to be in Jammu and Kashmir, another four in West Bengal (i.e., Malda South, Jangipur, Murshidabad, Berhampore), one each in Lakshadweep islands and Uttar Pradesh (i.e., Rampur where Muslims constitute about 50% of the voters), Bihar (Kishenganj), Dhubri (Assam), while remaining three lie in Kerala i.e., Ponnani, Wayanad and Malappuram.
But there are nearly 40 LS seats where Muslim constitute between 30 to 40 per cent of voters. An intelligent consolidation of the community votes together with friendly votes from some other social components can ensure victory of a Muslim candidate. These constituencies are:
Uttar Pradesh: Bijnore-38%, Amroha-37.5%, Muradabad-44.8%, Meerut-30.8%, Muzaffarngar-37%, Kairana-38.5%, Saharanpur-39%, Sambhal-45%, Nagina-41.7%, Bahraich-35%, Sharavathi-31%.
Bihar: Araria-41%, Katihar-42.5%, Purnea-37.6%,
Assam: Karimganj-45%, Barpeta-39%, Naugaon-33%.
West Bengal: Raiganj-47%, Malda North-48%, Diamond Harbour-33%, Baradhaman-35%, Jadavapur-33%, Matharpur-33%,
Andhra Pradesh: Hyderabad-41%, Secunderabad-41.7%,
Kerala: Kasargode-32.5%, Kozhicode-37.5%, Vadakkara-34.7%.