By A Staff Analyst
The Muslim representation in the 224-member Karnataka Assembly declined to mere seven in the recently-held election for the 15th legislative Assembly. The previous House had 12 members. The highest ever number of Muslim MLAs was 17, in the Assembly elected in 1978. It dipped to lowest ever, i.e., two, in the next elections, in 1983. The community represents 12.2% of the population in the state. For a fair and proportionate representation they deserve 28 members in the house, nine in the Legislative Council and three in Lok Sabha. This has never happened.
Dominance of two communities
Lingayaths, who constitute 16% of Karnataka’s population, have 58 members in the current house. They are the most numerous among the communities of Karnataka. In the first Assembly (for Old Mysore State), there were 42 Vokkaligas and 18 Lingayath members. This means 60% of the 100 seats were held by two dominant castes.
The number of Lingayath MLAs was 70 and that of Vokkaliga MLAs 57 in 1967. The first Assembly, constituted in 1952, had 100 members, of which one was a nominated member. After the reorganization of the Mysore State, the strength of the Assembly went up to 208 in 1957, 216 in 1967 and 224 (plus one nominated) in 1978. The State was renamed Karnataka in 1971.
After 1956 reorganization, Lingayath-dominant areas came in the state and consequently the number of Lingayath MLAs went upto 73 and Vokkaligas too increased their number, to 46 in 1957 elections. SCs and STs had a joint tally of 29, and OBCs 19. The number of Muslim MLAs was 09. The total number of MLAs was 208.
OBC Representation Soars
OBC MLAs were 18 in 1967. It suddenly soared to 38 in 1972, largely because the Chief Minister turned the orientation of the Congress party towards intermediate castes. It went up to 47 in 1989, and currently it is 45 in the present 2018 Assembly.
Karnataka has 34 seats reserved for SCs, and 15 for STs. So, these communities need not be concerned with underrepresentation. The representation of Brahmins, who represent 3% of the state population, has mostly been over a dozen. It was 18 in 1967, 16 in 1978 and 14 in 1983. The representation of Christians (2.3% of the population) has oscillated between zero and three. The current House has just one representative.
During the 2018 Assembly elections, Muslims overwhelmingly voted for the Congress, though some groups such as ‘Vision Karnataka’, had anticipated that the Congress alone would not be able to take on the BJP, which had mass mobilized its cadres. But Muslims mainly tilted for the Congress given that party’s overconfidence and positive accomplishments of the previous Government headed by Mr. Siddramaiah in terms of welfare economics. It is now felt that the strategy was a bit flawed and the community members and groups should have rather worked to put their eggs into more baskets than just one. A scribe cautioned against avoiding JDS merely because it once allied with the BJP for the sake of formation of a coalition Government in the State.
Given the distinct favour the Janata Dal Secular (JDS) had among the Vokkaligas who are preponderantly concentrated in the districts of Mandya, Mysore, Kolar, Chikamagalur, Shimoga, Coorg etc, it is imperative that Muslims weigh their choice between the Congress and the JDS wisely and factor the mood of the voters of that particular social component. It is now suggested that Muslim groups should actively interact with Congress and JDS parties and see that they share the seats in a manner that Muslim votes are leveraged more beneficially by either of the groups. Muslim political observers now feel that the community should begin preparation for the Lok Sabha polls from now itself, ensure registration of every single voter, and reach out to every voter with message as to which party and candidate to vote.
Participants at a meeting to analyse the 2018 election outcome and devise a strategy for the Lok Sabha 2019 elections felt that there should be centre for keeping track of political issues, build up documentation and keep eye on the political trends. A participant pointed out that finances for the work were essential. It was also suggested that there should be continuous monitoring of the implementation of the Government welfare and development schemes. There was a consensus that Muslims need a cogent strategy to play along the political process in the state. Some pointed out that the community has ignored the representation from Graduates and Teachers constituencies, which together command 13 seats in the Council. Concerted action may result in acquiring at least two seats in the Council among them.