Garavi Gujarat USA

Muslims face dwindling representa­tion in parliament


MORE THAN half the voters in the Indian city of Rampur are Muslim, but its member of parliament is from the ruling BJP and a staunch supporter of prime minister Narendra Modi's muscular Hindu-first agenda.

It is a situation repeated across Hindu-majority India, where many consider victory for Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in upcoming general elections a near certainty - and see Muslim candidates as a recipe for defeat at the ballot box.

While India's 220 million Muslims make up a little under a fifth of its 1.4 billion population, Muslim representa­tives in parliament have almost halved to less than five per cent since the 1970s.

‘Everyone wants a connect with BJP,' said Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi, who is confident of re-election as MP for Rampur in Uttar Pradesh state when the six-week-long elections begin on 19 April

Lodhi, a Hindu, replaced Rampur's Muslim MP in a 2022 by-election, jumping ship from the last lawmaker's party to become a BJP loyalist.

Muslim leaders worry at the lack of representa­tion. There were just 27

Muslim MPs in the 543-seat lower house in parliament - and none of them were among the BJP's 310 lawmakers.

Ziya Us Salam, author of a book on Muslims in India, says members of the faith had for decades placed their trust in secular parties, a process that created an ‘acute absence of Muslim leadership'.

Today, an overtly Muslim leader would be challenged as stoking sectarian divisions, yet few question when Modi champions constituti­onally secular India as a ‘Hindu Rashtra', or Hindu state.

‘Nobody talks of (Modi) being the leader of only Hindus,' Salam said.

He also argues that successive gerrymande­ring policies since independen­ce in 1947 have redrawn electoral boundaries to split areas with substantia­l Muslim population­s.

It is part of a wider shift, said Asaduddin Owaisi, one of two lawmakers in the last parliament from the All India Council for Unity of Muslims. He believes even secular parties avoid selecting Muslim candidates because they fear they would not appeal to Hindu voters.

‘They are afraid to even give a ticket to a Muslim candidate,' Owaisi said, accusing the ruling party of stoking fear against Muslims.

‘It is very difficult for the Muslim candidates from any political party to win.'

 ?? An Indian Muslim voter shows her ink-marked finger ??
An Indian Muslim voter shows her ink-marked finger

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