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Published in the 1-15 July 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Muslims in Lok Sabha from West Bengal
By Ahmad Rashid Shervani

We saw that in Uttar Pradesh we poor, sweet, always deprived Muslims, won only 11 seats in the new Lok Sabha. Our haq (fair share as per proportion in population) is 15 seats. So, the index of our haq-talfi (deprivation) is 4/15 or 27% in UP. We had taken UP first because 22% of all Muslim Indians live in U P. After U P, which state of India has most Muslims? None other than our sonar sundor West Bengal.

According to my estimates, the present total population of WB is 85,922,000 and out of these 22,828,000 or about 27% are Muslims. Out of 42 seats in Lok Sabha, the arithmetical haq of Muslims is 11 seats. Muslims have got only 5 seats from WB, less than half of their haq. Here, the index of haq-talfi is 6 /11 or about 55%, double of the 27% haq-talfi in U P. 

...all parties will have their ups and downs. So, as a community, Muslims may feel left out if all (or almost all) of them support one party and that one party happens to lose in elections.
...Muslims will be considered wiser if they do not put all their eggs in one basket. In a democracy, a community will be well-advised to not to let the doors of any party be completely shut upon itself.

Congress won only six seats in WB and two of these are won by Muslims. So, Congress has given Muslims 33% in WB, much more than their 27% haq. Comrades and allies have won 36 seats in WB but only three out of their 36 members in the new Lok Sabha from WB are Muslims, hardly 8% or less than one-third of our haq. Here our haq-talfi is almost 70%. Now leaderaan-e-millat must at once start shouting that Comrades are very communal. Will they? Even if they do, will anyone (even a most stupid Muslim) believe them?

If you say that Comrades are un-believers and will all go to Hell, most Muslim heads will nod in agreement. Some may sigh a little sadly and say: "Comrades are such good fellows really, but they will surely go to Hell because they don't believe in God". But if you say that Comrades are communal, no one will believe you. If Comrades are not communal, then why did they not give Muslims 27% or about nine seats in WB? This is exactly what I am trying to tell you. Except SC/ST, who have reservation, no community just "gets" any seat in Lok Sabha. A Muslim, just like a non-Muslim, has to win it. For this, he has to contest. For this, he has to win the confidence of the people of his constituency. To do this he has to have the willing co-operation, the whole-hearted support of the workers and cadre of a political party. This is more true in WB where leadership is neither inherited nor caste-based. The Left movement (with all its faults and which are many) is definitely mass-based and the party-cadre, the comrades, definitely play a part in the selection of a party-candidate for Lok Sabha. You cannot impose a candidate in WB just because he is a Muslim or anyone else. He has to emerge from the mass-movement, come-up from among the party activists.

Before blaming Comrades for doing haq-talfi of Muslims, we have to ask what haq Muslims have established over Comrades? Most Muslims in WB either kept running after the Congress or kept cheering Mamata didi while she was spitting fire against Comrades. Ultimately, Mamata didi went over to NDA and Muslims had to drift away from her. Even then, more of them went towards Congress which, as I have shown, has been quite fair to Muslims in WB. 

Fewer, much fewer, Muslims went to Comrades in WB. So how could Muslims get their haq from Comrades? Why should Comrades be running after this or that Muslim with a ticket for Lok Sabha on a silver-platter? 

In any field of life in this world, and more so in politics, it is a matter of give and take, of sow and reap, of cook and eat, of buy and have, of study and excel and get ahead in life. Jo barh kar khud uthaaley haath mein, meena usi ka hai. Only leaderaan-e-millat keep telling us Muslims that we will get everything automatically just by counting our numbers and then by wailing and whimpering, by complaining endlessly, by crying hoarse about haq-talfi and then just going to sleep.

Some aqalmand-e-millat may think and say that I am trying to push the Muslims of WB towards Comrades. No. All I am saying is that any individual and any community in India will have to adjust with the political reality in the country as a whole and in any part of the country. This is essential in a democracy. This does not mean that Muslims should just follow others. If the hawa in Tamilnadu is in favor of Jaya amma, all Muslims there flock to her and if the hawa starts blowing in favor of Karunandhi, all Muslims take a U-turn. Certainly not. I am not even suggesting that all Muslims in WB pick-up the red flag and become surkh-sipaahi zulm-shikan, aahan-paikar faulaad-badan.
However, the reality is that if Muslims in WB mostly support Congress and shun Comrades then they may benefit if the Congress does better and suffer if it is otherwise. This is just unavoidable, cry as much as you like.

Very briefly, may I suggest that any Muslim wishing to be in politics may chose a party after considering all pros and cons, according to his own ideas and opinions, attitude and inclination and even according to his prospects of going ahead in politics and then try to be as good a member, worker, leader of that party as Allah has made him capable of being. He should do his utmost for his party and also try to consolidate and improve his own position in the party of his choice, whichever that may be. But remember, all parties will have their ups and downs. So, as a community, Muslims may feel left out if all (or almost all) of them support one party and that one party happens to lose in elections. Therefore, as a community, Muslims will be considered wiser if they do not put all their eggs in one basket. In a democracy, a community will be well-advised to not to let the doors of any party be completely shut upon itself. 

AR Shervani is member of the National Minorities Commission and may be contacted at membershervani@hub.nic.in

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