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

ANALYSIS
Muslim representation in Lok Sabha, 2004
By Syed Shahabuddin

The Muslims have faired marginally better in the General Election 2004 as compared to the General Election, 1999. The number of Muslim MP's has risen from 32 to 35. But as compared to 1999 when only 4 were elected from non-concentration seats, in 2004, 7 have been elected from such seats.

The below chart shows the Muslim community is underrepresented with an average deprivation level of 50%. Deprivation level is 100% in Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, MP, Rajasthan and Uttaranchal which should have elected 9 Muslim MP's. In the next category falls Maharashtra with a deprivation level of 80% which has elected 1 against 5. States like AP, Assam, Jharkhand and W. Bengal have a deprivation level of 50% and have elected 10 against 21. UP (40%), Bihar (33-1/3%), J&K (25%), Kerala (25%) and Tamil Nadu (00%) and Union Territory (00%) have lower deprivation levels than the average of 50%, having elected 19 against 32.

Table - I : State-wise Deprivation Level

State Level  Due Muslim Actual Deprivation
AP 4 2 2 50% 50%
Assam 4 2 2 50% 50%
Bihar 6 3 3+1*  50% 33-1/3%
Delhi 1 0 0 100% 100%
Gujarat 2 0 0 100% 100%
Haryana 1 0 0 100% 100%
J&K  4  4  3 00% 25%
Jharkhand  2 0 1 100% 50%
Karnataka 3  3  2 00% 33-1/3%
Kerala  4 3 3 25% 25%
MP     2 0 0 100% 100%
Maharashtra 5 0 1 100% 80%
Rajasthan 2 0 0 100% 100%
Tamil Nadu 2 0 2 100% 00%
UP 15 8 9 47% 40%
Uttaranchal  1  0 0 100% 100%
W. Bengal  11 5 45% 45%
U.T. 1 2 1 +50% 00%
Total 70 32 35 54% 50% 
*Siwan result awaited

What is the reason for the under-representation? If we examine Table-II, we discover the obvious reason which is that major parties have not fielded Muslim candidates even in Muslim concentration constituencies. Why don't the national and regional parties which claim to be secular put up Muslim candidates? Primarily because, they generally lack confidence in their ability to transfer their non-Muslim base votes to a Muslim candidate. This is the basic weakness of our electoral system from the secular angle. Twenty-eight out of 35 Muslim MP's have been elected from Muslim concentration constituencies. But 7 have been elected from other seats. This shows that when the parties rise above communal apprehension and field Muslim candidates, the Muslim concentration constituencies show positive results.

Sixteen Muslim candidates of secular parties have been placed second like Tariq Anwar (NCP) in Katihar, M.H. Ismail Patel (INC) in Broach, Hasan Khan (JKN) in Ladakh, C.K. Jaffer Sharif (INC) in Bangalore North, I.G. Sanadi (INC) in Dharwar South, N.A. Mohammad (INC) in Kasaragod, Sajid Ali (INC) in Bhopal, Mahmood Madani (RLD) in Amroha, Noor Bano (INC) in Rampur, Tarannum Aqeel (BSP) in Sambhal, Akbar Ahmad Dempi (BSP) in Bareilly, Rizwan Zaheer (BSP) in Balrampur, Badrul Islam (RLD) in Bulandshahr and Shahnawaz Rana (BSP) in Kairana and A.Hasnat Khan (CPM) in Jangipur. Quite a few of them have been defeated because the third candidate was either a Muslim or belonged to another secular party, specially in UP.

So the second major reason is the lack of secular consolidation. If there is a secular alliance and it puts up a common Muslim candidate from a Muslim concentration constituency, he is likely to win as he will receive not only Muslim support but the support of all secular voters.

Some of the Muslim runners up belonged to the NDA - Arif Mohd. Khan in Kaiserganj, Akbar A. Khandoker in Serampore and Sultan Ahmad in Katwa, both from AITC. They were justifiably defeated by lack of Muslim support.

Let us look at the break up of the Muslim winners by parties in Table II.

Table - II 

Muslim Winners, Party-wise

INC    SP CPM  BSP   RJD  JDU  DMK IUML JKN  PDP  AIMIM
1999

10  

2 5 3 2 2 4 1
2004 10   7 2+1   1 1


Between the essentially Muslim parties like JKN and PDP in J&K, IUML in Kerala and AIMIM in AP, there is a drop of 2. Surprisingly the IUML lost the Manjeri seat which it had long held to a Muslim candidate of the CPM. The INC and CPM levels have remained the same. But SP-RLD and BSP have shown an increase of 7. DMK has contributed one seat in 2004. So has JD(U). In fact the JD(U) MP P.P. Koya is the only Muslim who has won on the NDA ticket. But for the loss of power, he would have become a Minister!
Incidentally, out of 15 Muslim MP's, 23 are new comers. This means that only 9 out of 32 of 1999 vintage survived. But all 23 are not exactly new faces. Some of them have been members of the Lok Sabha in the past.
To examine the relative performance of all the candidates and the Muslim candidates fielded nationally by major secular parties, we turn to Table-III.

Table - III: Muslim Performance, Party-wise

Candidates

Won

Party Total Muslim

%

Total Muslim

%

BJP 364 10 2.7 138 0
INC 417 33 7.9 145 10 6.9
CPI  35 1 2.9 10 0 0
CPI(M) 70 10 14.3 43 5 11.6
BSP 435 50  11.5 19  21.1
SP 237 38 16.0 36  7 19.4
NCP  32  1 3.1 9 0 0
RJD 41 5 12.2 21 3 14.3
JD(U) 73 6  8.2 1 12.5
JD(S) 43 4  9.3 3 0 0
DMK  16 1 6.3 16 1 6.3
ADMK 33  1 3.0 0 0 0
AITC 33 4 12.1 2 0 0
AIMIM 2 2 100.0 1 1 100.0
CPI(ML)(L)  65 2 3.1 0 0 0

Muslim Voting Pattern: By and large, the Muslim voters, as advised by the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, voted for the strongest candidate of a secular party. In other words, they supported the winnable secular candidate, irrespective of his party label or religion. Happily, thanks to the initiative taken by the Congress President Sonia Gandhi, on the whole, there was better alignment among secular parties in 2004 than in 1999. Perfect coordination was lacking, particularly in Kerala and West Bengal where the Left and the Congress were pitted against each other and in UP where the SP, the BSP and the Congress could not reach any understanding. In Kerala, the BJP failed to open its account and in West Bengal, its ally the TC was literally smashed in its strongholds. In some States like AP, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, MP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttaranchal, the Congress by itself or the Congress alliance was the major force against the NDA or the BJP. So it was easy for the secular voter to choose. 

The most difficult state from this angle was UP where in all constituencies all 3 major secular parties, the SP, the BSP and the Congress were pitted against each other and against the BJP. In UP, there are about 30-35 constituencies in which the Muslim vote is decisive, being 20% plus. Normally the Muslim vote tends to divide among secular parties/Muslim candidate, leaving the BJP to harvest the crop. In 2004, there was a visible surge of the Muslim voters towards the Congress all over UP but wherever the Congress candidate was weak, they opted for the stronger SP or BSP candidate. It is reasonable to assume that political consciousness of the Muslim voters overcame partisanship and they voted for the strongest secular candidate. It was feared that in a four cornered contest the BJP may win upto 60 seats. In the event it was only 10 Balrampur, Bareilly, Bulandshahr, Gorakhpur, Hathras, Jalaun, Khurja, Lucknow, Maharajganj, Pilibhit. Of this only Balrampur, Bareilly, Hapur, Bulandshahr and Pilibhit marginally belong to the list of 20% Plus Muslim concentration seats. It is interesting to note that the BJP lost all 3 constituencies which have been associated with anti-Masjid agitation namely Faizabad, Mathura and Varanasi. Of the major culprits of the Demolition, only Kalyan Singh survived in Bulandshahr. All other pillars of the Mandir Movement namely Vinay Katiyar, Swami Chinmayananda bit the dust.

Conclusion:
Muslims remain underrepresented in the Lok Sabha by about 50%, primarily because the secular parties fail to field adequate number of Muslim candidates, even from Muslim-concentration constituencies. On the other hand, the Muslim voters rise to the occasion and vote for the strongest or stronger secular candidate, irrespective of party affiliation. On the whole, the Muslim voters placed their faith in the Congress and its allies and switched its vote to a non-ally, only if the Congress candidate was too weak to contest effectively against the NDA/BJP candidate. See Table-IV.

Party - IV: Muslim Voting Performance, Party-wise

Congress+  BJP+ Others
Andhra Pradesh  61  34* 5
Assam 64  28**
Bihar  75  17
Delhi 94 3
Gujarat 66  20  14
J & K 24 75**
Karnataka  54  21*  25**
Kerala  58  2 40**
Maharashtra  72  14 14
Rajasthan  85  13 2
Tamil Nadu  75  14 11
Uttar Pradesh  15  82**
West Bengal  26  20* 54**
* Includes the votes of TDP (AP), JD(U) (Karnataka) and AITC (W. Bengal)
** Includes the votes of AGP (Assam), PDP/JKNC (J&K), JD(S) (Karnataka), LDF (Kerala), SP & BSP (UP) and LF (W. Bengal).
All figures in percentages. Based on data from NES 2004.
(Source: The Hindu, 20 May, 2004)


Muslims, thus, succeeded in their primary objective to defeat the BJP but failed in their secondary objective of raising their representation in the Lok Sabha.

Had the Congress put up more Muslim candidates from Muslim concentration constituencies in States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, MP and had there been electoral understanding among SP, BSP and Congress in UP, the Muslim representation would have easily crossed the 50 mark. And had the Left Front fielded Muslim candidates in due numbers (25% of the total) in West Bengal, the picture would have been totally different.

The Muslim voter is beginning to feel disillusioned because he does not see why he should be the loser in the victorious struggle against communal and fascist forces. Indeed the Muslim voter largely votes for non-Muslim candidate while, with the exception of the BSP voters, few other voters support Muslim candidates. How long can the Muslim voters be persuaded successfully to make a sacrifice for the cause of secularism is the moot question.

The Muslim card played by the BJP failed to attract Muslim votes. Even Vajpayee's personal appeals failed to make any impact. The BJP's plan for funding a Muslim party to divide Muslim votes failed to see the light of the day. But with or without the BJP's help, unless the secular parties take note of the growing disillusionment in the Muslim mind, the Muslims may in future opt for the strongest Muslim candidate in every Muslim concentration constituency and upset all the electoral calculations of the secular parties.

 

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