The results of the recently concluded general elections clearly demonstrate that though Muslims did not vote in masse for one candidate or a party just like previous elections, they voted for a candidate in whom they saw a good prospect of taking care of regional issues like security, development, employment etc. Maulana Asrarul Haque Qasmi is a glaring example of this notion. He is elected from Kishan Ganj constituency in Bihar on Congress ticket. As President of Talimi Wa Milli Foundation he has been highly active for the educational upliftment of the people of Kishanganj for long. Under this organization he adopted 168 villages to make them fully literate. He says “The youths of our country, particularly of Kishanganj are highly backward in the field of education so I will try to remove this lacuna of my people. To create employment opportunities for youths is also one of my priorities.” He is the only Congress Muslim MP from Bihar who studied in famous Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband.
The other Muslim MP of Deoband background is perfume baron Maulana Badruddin Ajmal; founder President, AIUDF, Assam, who won the election from Dhubri constituency with a big margin of about two lakh votes getting 51.66% votes. His youngest brother Abdurrehman Ajmal is studying in Deoband. He has seven sons and one daughter. His four sons are Hafiz-e-Quran. He tells convincingly “My enemy becomes my friend when he comes to me. I have adopted ‘fill in the blanks’ formula in my life. People love me wherever I go”. He is said to be the leader of Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants. Bangladeshi label annoys these Mulsims who were earlier appeased by Congress. But now Maulana has come to their rescue. He had surprised everyone by winning 10 assembly seats in 2006 by a party that was formed just few months before the elections.
In 2004 general elections, the number of Muslim MPs was 36 while in the current Lok Sabha it is only 31. The states of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal sent the maximum number of Muslim MPs to Lok Sabha, 7 by each. The other states are J&K (4), Bihar (3), Kerala (3), Assam (3), Tamil Nadu (2), Andhra Pradesh (1), Lakshdeep (1). In total, 769 Muslim candidates fought the general elections 2009 from 281 constituencies on the tickets of many political parties. Congress got an edge over other parties in getting the support of the people who elected 11 Muslim candidates fighting on the tickets of this national party. As mentioned, the circumstances of the voting pattern among Muslims did not remain the same everywhere. Many states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan etc did not elect even a single Muslim MP despite a sizeable Muslim population due to different regional circumstances. In Maharastra, the results of Aurangabad and Malegaon, two Muslim dominated towns, were more worrisome for the community. The split in Mulsim votes assured the victiory of BJP in Malegaon while Aurangabad seat won by Shiv Sena. It is surprising that the leaders like Abdur Reman Antulay of Congress, Mohammad Salim of CPM, Azam Pansare of NCP, Aziz Tankarvi of Congress and Dr Shakeel Ahmad of Congress could not win their seats in their respective regions.
Muslim leaders and analysts are of the view that the community has always been politically under-represented. “The number of muslim MPs in the Lok Sabha is unfortunately on constant decline, since the emergence of BJP. Since BJP accounts for 1/3rd -1/4th of the total seats, since 1996, where muslims do not get ticket for obvious reasons, so they in effect contest in that many less seats. Ideally, secular parties should be compensating for the loss by giving increased number of seats, but that does not happen. E.g. in UP, BSP gave only 14 seats to Muslims, who account 19% compared to 21 to Brahmins, who account for less than 9%. Similalry, Congress gave some 12 seats, where as they should have given 16 seats by population and 25 seats by voting share index. Same is true with Samajwadi party in UP, CPM in West Bengal and so on” comments M.J.Khan, President, National Economic Forum of Minorities (NEFM). The general perception amongst Muslims is that even the secular parties are not honest towards muslims. They only talk sweet, but in effect, they are only as good as BJP, which unfortunately talks bitter.
The only Muslim MP from BJP is Shahnawaz Husain. He consecutively won Lok Sabha third time from Bhagalpur in Bihar. “I am not a Muslim leader. I have been elected by Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and all. I do not ask for vote on the basis of caste, creed and religion. I believe in work and people support me for my works only.” He argues. It is well known that Muslims never vote for BJP on account of its communal agendas. But if a BJP candidate wins in the elections and gets Muslims support as well, it would be only because of his works and reputation in the constituency. Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar and leader of Janata Dal (U) garnered the support of Muslims in Bihar in the recent general elections, although he had an alliance with BJP. It became possible only because he adopted the path of communal harmony, employment and development, the core issues which were nowhere during Lalu regime in Bihar.
Writing exclusively on ‘general elections in Bihar- A paradise lost for Muslims’ Chicago-based community activist and journalist, Moin Moon Khan gives his tough opinion in harsh words: “Nitish was certainly successful in hoodwinking Muslims of Bihar by proclaiming himself as their savior, like a butcher proclaiming himself to be a vegetarian. In fact, Nitish has been a facilitator for the Sangh Parivar in the same way as George Fernandes coalesced the Hindutva fraternity in its glorious days”. Of course, not many would agree with this view as Nitish simply can not avoid 13 million population (about 17%) of the state.
Now comes the issue of Muslim women. They have shown no sign of retreat this time. Out of 769 Muslim candidates, 42 were women. Four of them won the elections. This is their highest number since the first Lok Sabha in 1952. These women Muslim MPs are: Mrs Rani Narah, on congress ticket from Lakheempur, Assam; Mrs Tabassum Begum on BSP ticket from Kairana; Mrs Qaiser Jehan on BSP ticket from Sitapur; Ms Mausam Noor on Congress ticket from Malda North. Of them, Mausam Noor is the youngest, only 27 years old and also the most educated. She is LLB from Kolkata University. She is the niece of Congress Veteran AB Ghani Khan Chaudhary. “The love we receive from Malda’s people motivates me. People come out only to see what Ghani Khan Niece looks like” says the wildlife and trekking enthusiast and a regular at tiger reserves Ms Mausam Noor.
Mrs Qaiser Jehan, only 8th pass, is wife of Jasmir Ansari, who is a MLA from BSP. She has a clean image in her constituency. “If every party decides not to give ticket to a corrupt person, 50 % politics would be cleaned automatically” says Qaiser Jehan.
There are some first timers as well like Azharuddin, former captain, Indian Cricket team. He tries to remain shy from the media but after much effort he spoke to us. He said “No other party is more secular than congress. This is the only party that talks about the rights of Muslims and that is the reason I joined it.”
No doubt, Muslim MPs generally can not go beyond their party line in policy matters and all. So they can not do anything for the community even if they want to do something for them. Then why there is much voice and demand by the community for increasing the ratio of representation of Muslims from the so called secular parties?
“Under the party based parliamentary democracy, party leaders have total say, and not the individual MPs, unless 2/3rd of them decide to walk away, which is rare phenomenon. It is true that number of Muslim MPs under different leaderships have no role, except that they can put little pressure, if they can, and do little help to their people back in their constituencies. This is too little. Two Hindu MPs under Muslim leadership is better situation for Muslims than 20 Muslim MPs under the so called secular leadership” comes the reply from M.J.Khan. It is to be seen in the next five years what comes up from these Muslim MPs.
Year Number of Muslims in Lok Sabha
1952 – N.A.
1989 – 29
2009 – 31
(Dr Malik Rashid Faisal is Senior Editor, The Sunday Indian,News Weekly (Urdu))