The number of Muslim MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha is drastically low, considering the fact that in the 543-member House there are only 30 of them. In terms of their population they should have at least 72 Muslims representing them in the august House.
The highest ever number of Muslims (49) was there in 1980 in a 529-member House. The number of MPs has grown steadily since 1952 when the House had only 489 members, out of which 21 were Muslims.
The peak of 49 Muslim members in 1980 troughed to 46 in 1984. There is considerable concern among Muslims over the fact that as Lok Sabha has expanded the number of Muslims has kept on falling steadily.
Muslims feel that faulty delimitation of constituencies with sizeable Muslim presence has depleted their voting strength in many constituencies. Gerrymandering, or willful delimitation that aims at diluting a certain section’s voting strength, is an issue that Muslim organisations have often raised with successive governments.
Another willful governmental action that has struck at the root of Muslim political empowerment is the declaration of several constituencies with large Muslim presence as reserved for Scheduled Castes. That has effectively prevented quite a few Muslims from entering Lok Sabha as it has been permanently fenced off for them.
Yet another is the residual venom left from the Ayodhya campaign days that has poisoned the political environment in most of north India. Although the poison has worn off, it has not worn off enough to allow a fair game in particular constituencies.
Among a myriad causes of decline of Muslim numbers in Parliament is the allergy of certain Hindu middle castes to Muslims. Ironically, Muslims invariably vote for them if they represent a secular party, but these castes never vote for Muslim candidates.
There were as many as 780 Muslims in the electoral fray this time, mostly representing smaller parties or fighting as independent candidates. Their number this time in the Lok Sabha is four less than in 2004. All Muslim candidates of Samajwadi Party were trounced this time as Muslim votes, especially in UP, were divided between Congress, SP and BSP.
Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa drew a blank as far as Muslim candidates were concerned.
The most important point of it is that nowhere in India Muslims have voted for someone just because they were Muslim. They preferred only those candidates who represented a secular party, whether they were Muslim or not. This trend has held since the first Lok Sabha.
Despite their robust record of supporting secular candidates only, the fact remains that something has to be done about their falling numbers. This fact can’t be ignored for long. One way of making up for the shortfall is to have some more persons in Rajya Sabha and in commissions, corporations, on boards and committees of the government.