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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 1 New Delhi December 23, 2017 - Annual Number

Muslims Inching Towards Political Marginalisation

Sunday 24 December 2017

by Ahmad Zaboor

The Hinduvta brigade has over the last three decades been making fallible assertions that the Congress party is pampering Muslims in India at the cost of the majority community. What it signifies is that for the Sangh, Muslims with all the divisions and diversification vote en bloc for the Congress party. Two facts repudiate this untenable argument. The first is that Muslims of India are at the bottom of every index of development as pointed out in the Sachhar Committee Report. The second is that the Muslim vote is not a monolith, they don’t vote en bloc but vote in alliance with other groups and communities particularly subaltern groups. This proves that the Muslim vote is a myth.

Here what is important is the question of what Iqbal Ansari calls political deprivation or marginalisation of Muslims in the political system. Is this phenomenon aided by the state or is it simply an aberration that needs a course correction? Marginalisation is a process in which a certain community/individual is relegated to the periphery of the social space that eventually constrains their life choices at the political space, social negotiation, and economic bargaining.

There are two reasons which point towards the fact that the political institutions and structures have not been working in an impartial manner. The Sachar Committee Report has pointed out that a number of Muslim-concentrated Assembly consti-tuencies have been declared as ‘reserved’ by the Delimitation Commission. Some of the State Assembly constituencies—Sagardighi, Kaliganj, Khargram, Ketugram-I, Rajarhat and Basanti—in West Bengal have above 40 per cent Muslim population but these seats are reserved for Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe candidates even though their population in these constituencies is below 25 per cent. This assumes importance given the fact that two-third of the representatives in Parliament are elected with a minority of votes. Conversely, constituencies with a majority of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe populations—like Haldibari, Sitai, Kaliaganj, Jalpaiguri, and Tufanganj-II—in West Bengal have been left unreserved.

For many Muslim politicians, the problem could be solved by forming an all-India Muslim political party. But given the equation that the Muslim population is thinly scattered all over the country, with the Muslim vote itself being a myth and without a workable social engineering, such a Muslim political formation has the least chance to succeed. Such an experiment has been conducted at the regional level but has backfired. In the 2012 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, four Muslim political parties contested for 333 seats but won only seven seats while 58 Muslim candidates from other political parties won.

The last Lok Sabha elections witnessed unprecedented consolidation of Hindu votes for the BJP. As a result of which India’s 150 million Muslims have only 22 representatives in the Lower House of Parliament, their lowest-ever tally in the Lok Sabha. This has not happened the first time. The representation of Muslims in Parliament has never been proportionate to their population. The highest representation has been in the year 1980 when it was 49 members. It was 21 in 1952, 24 in 1957, 23 in 1962, 29 in 1967, 30 in 1971, 34 in 1977, 49 in 1980, 46 in 1984, 33 in 1989, 28 in 1991, 29 in 1996, 32 in 1999 36 in 2004, 30 in 2009 and 23 in the 2014 elections.

Communalism is one of the causative factors for the low representation with fewer Muslim candidates being given tickets to contest elections by all the so-called national parties. At the all-India level, the narrative across the political spectrum is tilting towards the majoritarian worldview, wary of any concession to the minorities, especially Muslims. The fear of the majority community’s polarisation is making parties guarded while approaching Muslims, lest they are accused of minority appeasement.

Name of the Political party | Average nomination Ratio | elected to nominated

INC 6.72% 1: 2
BJS BJP 0.82% 1: 10
CPI 4.24% 1: 9
CPI-M 9.34% 1: 2
Janata party 6.8% 1: 5
Janata Dal 9.04% 1: 4
RJD 14.79% 1: 4
SP 18.02% 1: 7
BSP 10.53% 1:17

The stark reality evident from the 2014 general elections is that amidst the growth in the numbers of Muslims across the country, there is a sharp decline in the representation of this largest minority community in the Lok Sabha. Thus, in the 16th Lok Sabha, there are only 23 MPs belonging to the Muslim minority. Their share in the total strength of 543 members of the Lok Sabha thus comes to the lowest, that is, 4.2 per cent. There is, certainly, large-scale under-representation of Muslims compared to their population proportion of 14.2 per cent. The community must have at least 77 MPs in the Lok Sabha but their number is only 23, accounting for a deficit of 54 members.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Muslim MPs were elected only from seven States—West Bengal (8 members), Bihar (4), Jammu & Kashmir and Kerala (3 each), Assam (2) and Tamil Nadu and Telangana (one each), besides one from the Union territory of Lakshadweep. These 8 States and UT account for almost 46 per cent of the Muslim population in the country. These States have 179 Lok Sabha seats. Surprisingly, there is no representation of Muslims from the remaining 22 States and six UTs, including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi. These 28 unrepresented States and UTs account for 54 per cent of the Muslim population in India and have 364 Lok Sabha seats.

Out of the 37 parties represented in the Lok Sabha, only 11 parties have MPs belonging to Muslim community. These include Congress and Trinamul Congress (4 Muslim MPs each), PDP (Kashmir) (3), AIUDF (Assam), IUML (Kerala), CPI-M and NCP (2 each), AIMIM, AIADMK, RJD and LJP (one each). Incidentally, 26 other parties have no representation of Muslims in the Lok Sabha. These parties include the ruling BJP and its allies like Shiv Sena, TDP, and Akali Dal, besides TRS, YSRCP, BJD, SP, AAP, JD (U) and CPI. The only NDA constituent with a Muslim MP is LJP of Ram Bilas Paswan. However, the BJP and allies have shown that without disenfranchising Muslims and other minorities, they can disempower them by denying them tickets to contest the polls on the one hand and by ensuring the defeat of minority candidates fielded by other parties on the other. This is what exactly happened in the 2014 general elections. Above is the nomination of Muslims for the Lok Sabha elections by the major political parties.

The above picture makes it clear that there is an urgent need to reframe the rules for recognising any party as or national party keeping in view whether the political party was providing proper representation to the various religious categories to make the party look like a rainbow coalition in terms of religious composition. This exercise can have a wholesome impact on the body politic of the political system as it can be an antidote against communalism if political parties are made representational in terms of religious composition.

Indian democracy is inching towards a non-inclusive character if almost one-fifth (19.3 per cent) of the country’s population, comprising mainly Muslim, Christian and Buddhist minorities, remains under-represented in the Lok Sabha. This is a challenge to both the minorities and the Indian polity to preserve and promote the country’s secular ethos and to make every community an equal partner in the nation’s progress and prosperity through their adequate representation in Parliament and the State Legislatures.


Iqbal A. Ansari, Political Representation of Muslims in India 1952-2004, Manak Publications 2006.

‘Indian Muslims between Exclusion and Political Populism’ by Omair Anis on November 30, 2016.

The Indian Express. dated May 17, 2014,

The Times of India. dated August 31, 2015, ‘Muslim representation on the decline’, https://timesofindia.

The author, hailing from Anantnag in J&K, is a Lecturer in Political Science. He can be contacted at e-mail: ahmadzaboor[at]

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