General Elections 2019: A Short Comment on Muslim Representation

 

Khalid Anis Ansari

In most academic and journalistic representations of the Muslim-minority space there is a persistent emphasis on the underrepresentation of Muslim legislators in various legislative bodies. The population proportion of Muslims has increased from the immediate post-partition phase of 10.4% to 14.2% in the 2011 Census. However, in the Lok Sabha Muslim representation has on an average been 6% so far. As Table 1 clearly demonstrates even the highest Muslim representation of 10% (49 MPs) that was registered in the seventh Lok Sabha was below their national population estimates.

TABLE 1
MUSLIM REPRESENTATION IN LOK SABHA
S. No Year of Polls No. of MPs Percentage
1 1952 11 2
2 1957 19 4
3 1962 20 4
4 1967 25 5
5 1971 28 6
6 1977 34 7
7 1980 49 10
8 1984 42 8
9 1989 27 6
10 1991 25 5
11 1996 29 6
12 1998 28 6
13 1999 31 6
14 2004 34 7
15 2009 30 6
16 2014 23 4
17 2019 25 5

Yet the story of Muslim underrepresentation in the political sphere needs to be contextualized. Largely because of the simplistic reduction of Muslims to their religious identity alone has serious epistemological consequences, particularly in making sense of social exclusion. As subordinated caste Pasmanda Muslim commentators have often pointed out the monolithic representation of Muslim identity irons out internal hierarchies, particularly those based on caste.

According to one analysis, of the 7,500 elected representatives from the first to the fourteenth Lok Sabha, 400 were Muslims—of which 340 were Ashraf (upper caste) Muslims and 60 were from the Pasmanda (OBC/Dalit/Adivasi) Muslim background. If we apply the population ratio 15 (Ashraf): 85 (Pasmanda)1 to the Muslim population figure of 14.2 percent as per the 2011 Census then the Ashrafs would have a 2.1 per cent share in the country's population. But their representation in the Lok Sabha was around 4.5 per cent. On the other hand, while the Pasmandas' share in the population was around 11.4 percent their representation in the parliament was merely 0.8 percent. One could clearly infer that the Ashraf Muslims, an erstwhile ruling class, were doubly represented while it were the Pasmanda Muslims who actually faced gross exclusion in the parliament.

The broad trend of Pasmanda exclusion has continued in the 17th Lok Sabha as well. Table 2 suggests that out of 25 Muslim MPs2 18 are higher caste while 7 are OBCs/STs. Again the higher caste Muslims are adequately represented with just over 3 percent representation while the representation of the Pasmanda Muslims is around 1 percent.

TABLE 23

MUSLIM MPS IN 17th LOK SABHA
 S. NO. NAME CONSTITUENCY PARTY CATEGORY
 1  BADRUDDIN AJMAL  ASSAM-DHUBRI AIUDF  GENERAL 
ABDUL KHALEQUE   ASSAM-BARPETA  INC  GENERAL
 KUNWAR DANISH ALI  UTTAR PRADESH-AMROHA  BSP  GENERAL
 AFZAL ANSARI  UTTAR PRADESH-GHAZIPUR  BSP  GENERAL
 HAJI FAZLUR REHMAN  UTTAR PRADESH-SAHARANPUR  BSP  OBC
 DR. S.T. HASAN  UTTAR PRADESH-MORADABAD  SP  GENERAL
 DR. SHAFIQUR REHMAN BARQ  UTTAR PRADESH-SAMBHAL  SP  GENERAL
 MOHAMMAD AZAM KHAN  UTTAR PRADESH-RAMPUR  SP  GENERAL
 ASADUDDIN OWAISI  TELANGANA-HYDERABAD  AIMIM  GENERAL
10   IMTIAZ JALEEL SYED  MAHARASHTRA-AURANGABAD  AIMIM  GENERAL
11   ADV. A M ARIFF  KERALA-ALAPPUZHA   CPI (M)  OBC
12   P.K. KUNHALIKUTTY  KERALA-MALLAPURAM   IUML  OBC
13   E. T. MOHAMMED BASHEER  KERALA-PONNANI   IUML  OBC
14   HASNAIN MASOODI  JAMMU & KASHMIR-ANANTNAG  JKNC  GENERAL
15   MOHAMMAD AKBAR LONE  JAMMU & KASHMIR-BARAMULLA  JKNC  GENERAL
16   FAROOQ ABDULLAH  JAMMU & KASHMIR-SRINAGAR  JKNC  GENERAL
17   DR. MOHAMMAD JAWED  BIHAR-KISHANGANJ  INC  GENERAL
18   CHOUDHARY MEHBOOB ALI KAISER  BIHAR-KHAGARIA  LJP  GENERAL
19   NUSRAT JAHAN RUHI  WEST BENGAL-BASIRHAT  TMC  GENERAL
20   ABU TAHER KHAN  WEST BENGAL-MURSHIDABAD  TMC  GENERAL
21   SAJDA AHMED  WEST BENGAL-ULUBERIA  TMC  OBC
22   ABU HASEM KHAN CHOWDHURY (DALU)  WEST BENGAL-MALDAHA DAKSHIN  INC  GENERAL
23   KHALILUR RAHAMAN  JANGIPUR-WEST BENGAL  TMC  GENERAL
24   K. NAVASKANI  RAMANATHAPURAM-TAMIL NADU  IUML  OBC
25   MOHAMMED FAIZAL PP  LAKSHWADEEP  NCP  ST

 The above exercise of introducing caste in the data on Muslim political underrepresentation complicates the picture and reveals the power differentials within the community. It is regrettable that due to the discursive grip of the minority discourse that hypervalorizes religion most researchers have hardly paid attention to caste-based hierarchies among Muslims in their work. If the Muslim category is complicated by introducing other social categories—not only in the political sphere but also in education, employment and so on—then one would hopefully arrive at a more contextualized and nuanced understanding of the community and social exclusion.

Corrections and clarifications: This article has been edited to exclude the name of Ms. Aparupa Poddar (Afrin Ali), the Trinamool Congress MP from Arambagh seat in West Bengal. She has contested from an SC reserved seat and so technically cannot be a Muslim.

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Notes

1. P. S. Krishnan: "There is no census of the population of communities/groups of Muslim BCs and their proportion to the total Muslim population of each state. The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) has made estimates, but it has got methodological limitations and, therefore, many of its figures, mentioned in Sachar Committee's report, are underestimates. It is, in fact, in the range of 80 to 85% in the northern states and even higher in the southern states..." [Krishnan, P. S. (2010). Understanding the Backward Classes of Muslim Society. Economic & Political Weekly, XLV(34), p. 52].

2. A few reports have given the figure of 27 Muslim MPs. This is erroneous as they have enlisted the Congress' Mohammad Sadique who has won the Faridkot seat from Punjab as a Muslim. My colleague Shafiullah Anis informs me that he is a Sikh belonging to the SC community.

3. I am deeply thankful to all my friends and sources who helped me in compiling this list.

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Khalid Anis Ansari teaches at Glocal University. The views are personal.