Madhya Pradesh and its 'Missing' Muslim Legislators

Students in the Madarsa Dar-ul-Uloom Taj-ul-Masajid, Bhopal, MP. Photo: Mohd Osama.

In the 15 State Assembly elections held so far in Madhya Pradesh, one thing that has remained static, besides the dominance of national political parties, is the marginal presence of Muslims, both in the electoral arena and among the winners. In the recently-concluded State elections, the Congress clinched a victory after three consecutive defeats. With the party doubling its seats in the assembly, its Muslim representation also doubled. Yet even with this doubling, Muslim MLAs in the Congress – and in the assembly as whole – have manage to reach a dismal figure of only two.
Mohd Osama, PhD candidate, Department of Political Science, Jamia Milia Islamia, argues that Muslim representation, which has always been disproportionately low compared with the community’s population, both in the State Assembly and Parliament, and indeed in legislatures in North India as a whole, has dropped even further coinciding with the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

On December 10, 2018, just a day before the declaration of Assembly election results of five States, including Madhya Pradesh, a bike mechanic who repairs and restores half a century old Royal Enfield bikes, told me in his Bhopali Hindi dialect, “opposition hota hai to maza aata hai…elections me bhi maza aata hai aur do elections ke beech me bhi" (the presence of opposition party makes politics interesting… interesting at the times of elections and in-between the two State elections). He was in fact lamenting the Congress losing seats in the earlier State elections.

He could not have imagined that his words would come true in the most unexpected way. Even the BJP couldn’t have in its wildest dreams imagined that it would sit in the opposition with just a few seats behind the half way majority. The Congress got 114 seats for 40.9 per cent of votes, and the BJP got 109 seats for 41 per cent of votes. The results of the 15 State Assembly election in Madhya Pradesh, and even in Rajasthan which went to the polls on November 28 and December 7, 2018, showed that the Congress has a lot more to do to build up its organisational strength. In the event, in both the States, the Congress formed the government with the help of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. In Madhya Pradesh, the final tally of the Congress plus is –114 of Congress, 1 of SP, and 2 of BSP, making a total of 117, passing the halfway majority.

In the 2018 elections, 14 Muslims were nominated in all; 1 by BJP, 3 by Congress, 9 by BSP, and 1 by CPI. Muslim candidate of BSP couldn’t win in any election; CPI Muslim candidate did win in 1962, 1967, and 1972 – but since then it’s been drawing a blank. The main parties are the Congress and the BJP both of which are extremely conscious about fielding ‘winnable’ candidates. This time, the BJP  ticket to the daughter of the well-known Bhopal Congress leader, Ahmed Rasool Siddiqui, who is still liked and remembered by the people of Bhopal for his initiatives in the field of jobs, and water availability. Fatima Rasool ‘Gudiya’, fought against the now five times Congress MLA, Arif Aqeel, on the Bhopal north Assembly seat, from where her father won in 1980 and 1985. She lost the election by some 34000 votes. Congress gave two more tickets, one to Arif Masood to contest the Bhopal Central seat, and another to Masarrat Shahid for the Sironj Assembly seat. Masood comfortably defeated Surendra Nath Singh of the BJP, who faced high anti-incumbency this time, as evident during my fieldwork in the area. Masarrat Shahid, the only Muslim woman candidate from the Congress, lost the election. Only two Muslim MLAs got elected this time, an addition of one from 2013. Muslim representation in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly reached its highest in 1962 – six from Congress, and one of CPI.

So, of the Congress’s three Muslim candidates two could win – signaling an improvement over 2013, when only one of its five Muslim candidates could win. Arif Aqeel, the Congress’s only and the Assembly’s only Muslim MLA, was given a tough fight in the 2013 election by the former Member of Parliament, Arif Beig. Beig who was the BJP’s only Muslim candidate in that election lost by just 6664 votes.

So, the Congress and the BJP give tickets to Muslim only where they are seen to be able to win.

In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP did not give tickets to any Muslim between 1993 to 2008. It fielded one Muslim each in 2013 and 2018. This is in congruence with BJP’s nomination patterns in other States and in Lok Sabha. But the Congress has also been giving fewer and fewer tickets to Muslim over the years. For example, the Congress gave 11 tickets to Muslims in 1962, and 10 in 1980, but in 2008, 2013, and 2018, only 3, 5, and 3 tickets were given respectively. This should be seen in the light of the BJP’s ascendance in the State from 2003 onwards. Significantly, the decline in the Congress’s Muslim nomination precedes the charge of "soft Hindutva" laid in this election against Rahul Gandhi and his party1. A point to note is the heavy Muslim presence on the seats from where the two Muslim candidates were elected, more than 40 per cent by rough estimates. So, the Congress and the BJP give tickets to Muslim only where they are seen to be able to win. The BJP’s record shows that it either nominates no Muslim or at best only one   Muslim, and only on the Bhopal north seat, the seat with the most Muslim voters. 

If we talk about the Madhya Pradesh assemblies over the years, the national political parties have always been more important than the State parties. In the latest Assembly of 2018, national parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress and the BSP hold 98 per cent of the seats. The hold of the national in the legislative Assembly of Madhya Pradesh, has been always above 89 percent of the total seats. Only once, in 1962, it was about 80 per cent, when the highest number of Independent candidates were elected, accounting for about 14 per cent or 39 Independent MLAs (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assemblies: National Parties like– BJP (earlier JS or BJS). INC, NCP, BSP, CPI, CPM, JNP (from 1977-1985), have been the most important actors in the State politics; the State parties, registered parties, or the Independents are comparatively less important.

LA: Legislative Assembly; Source: collated from ECI statistical reports; Classification of parties is as per the ECI reports. Mohd Osama, PhD candidate, JMI; for 2018, no gazette is available still, but only a list of contesting candidates2.

In all these fifteen State Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, one thing which stood common, beside the dominance of national political parties – is the marginal presence of Muslim candidates fielded in the elections and in the Assembly.

Muslims political presence in Madhya Pradesh

Muslims constitute about 6.57 per cent of the State’s population (Census 2011 religion data). Muslims form less than 12 per cent in most districts of the State. Only Burhanpur and Bhopal have 20 to 23 per cent of Muslims.

The proportional representation of Muslims in Parliament and in the assembly, ideally should be 2 and 15.

As per the population of Muslims in Madhya Pradesh, the proportional representation of Muslims in Parliament and in the Assembly, ideally should be 2 and 15, respectively in the present Lok Sabha and Assembly. The actual political representation of Muslims in Madhya Pradesh in the latest Lok Sabha (2014) and in the Assembly (2018) is 0 and 2, respectively. The total tally of Muslims elected in the State till date from 1952, is 12 in the Lok Sabha, and 50 in the Assembly, which ideally should have been 27 and 206 (author’s own calculations).

The State Assembly election of 2018 resulted in the addition of one more Muslim in the Assembly, which had only one Muslim MLA between 2013-2018 in a State with a Muslim population of 4,774,69, according to the 2011 census. The logical questions to ask is – Why are Muslims politically marginalised in the State Assembly of Madhya Pradesh? Why do we not find proportional-to-population (descriptive) political representation of Muslims in the State? There are no simple explanations for these. Let’s deal with the first question.

Muslims in the State elections

One of the ways to find about the political marginalisation of Muslims in the State’s Assembly is to look at the data of Muslim candidates in the elections.

According to the collated data from the statistical reports of Election Commission of India, national political parties like BJP, BSP, CPI, CPM, and INC which have around 98 per cent of the seats in the latest 2018 Assembly (225 out of 230), together nominated only 14 Muslim candidates out of a total of 717 candidates they fielded, which is just 2 per cent. Only 2 (from Bhopal North and Bhopal Central Assembly constituencies) among these 14, both from the Congress could get elected. In the 15 State elections from 1952 through to 2018 an average of only 2.3 per cent of Muslim candidates were nominated by the national political parties.

Figure 2: Muslim Political Under-Representation in Madhya Pradesh (1952 to 2018): Electorally, National Political Parties are important in Madhya Pradesh: on an average, more than 90 per cent of the seats are won by national Parties. Muslims are under-represented not only in the legislature but also at the candidacy level.

 

All values are in per centages. LA- Legislative Assembly; IND- Independent; Note: In 1980 and 1990- One IND Muslim winner each, is not included; Besides these two- All Muslim winners are from National Parties. No IND winners or candidates are included. Source: Collated from the ECI statistical reports. Mohd Osama, PhD candidate, JMI; for 2018, no gazette is available still, but only a list of contesting candidates3.

Table 1: Muslim Political under-representation in Madhya Pradesh (1952-2018)

Legislative Assembly

total seats in the Assembly

National parties- winner

Elected Muslim MLAs-National Parties

Total Candidates by National Parties

Muslim Candidates- National Parties

1st LA 1952

232

207

6

631

14

2nd LA 1957

288

256

3

594

14

3rd LA 1962

288

233

7

794

16

4th LA 1967

296

272

3

886

16

5th LA 1972

296

278

6

753

16

6th LA 1977

320

314

4

691

16

7th LA 1980*

320

311

4

1142

35

8th LA 1985

320

314

4

1002

25

9th LA 1990*

320

307

1

914

25

10th LA 1993

320

298

0

974

24

11th LA 1998

320

303

4

1035

15

12th LA 2003

230

215

2

747

22

13th LA 2008

230

221

1

724

16

14th LA 2013

230

227

1

789

19

15th LA 2018

230

225

2

717

14

 

LA- Legislative Assembly; Note: In 1980 and 1990 - One IND Muslim winner each, is not included; Besides these two - All Muslim winners are from National Parties. No IND winners or candidates are included. Source: Collated from the ECI statistical reports; for 2018, no gazette is available still, but only a list of contesting candidates4.

Table 2: Comparison between the political parties

National Political Parties

Muslim candidates in 15th LA 2018

Most Muslim candidates in an Assembly election (7th LA 1980)

Muslim winners in 15th LA 2018

Most Muslim winners in an Assembly election (3rd LA 1962)

INC

3

10

2

6

BJP

1

3

0

0

CPI

1

1

0

1

BSP

9

N.A.

0

N.A.

Total

14

35*

2

7

 

*all parties in the elections are not included in the comparison; LA- Legislative Assembly.

Source: Collated from the ECI statistical reports; for 2018, no gazette is available still, but only a list of contesting candidates5.

Muslims have never been proportionately represented in Madhya Pradesh. The gap has been widening over the years.

In the graph above (see figure 2): the comparative figures of Muslim candidates, Muslim winners, and their ideal political representation is drawn out. It is evident from the graph that Muslim representation was the highest in the Assembly of 1962, while in terms of nominations, the highest was in the Assembly election of 1980. Leaving aside the two elections of 1952 and 1962, the percentage of elected Muslims has always been less than the nominated Muslims by national parties. In these two elections, perhaps there were more winnable Muslim candidates nominated. The sad part is that, Muslims have never been proportionately represented, in any Assembly elections in the State. The gap between the elected, nominated, and the ideal political representation of Muslims has been widening, over the years as the graph shows (see figure 2).

BJP and the Congress

These two political parties are the two main actors in the State. The decline of Congress (or INC) gave way to the BJP in the State, both in the Assembly and Parliament, until the latest election of 2018. We already know that, at no point in the political life of Madhya Pradesh, Muslims were proportionally represented, neither at the elected stage, nor at the candidacy stage. The Congress’s comparatively better showing in 2018 has had only a marginal bearing on Muslims presence in the Assembly. The Congress’s reaching the majority mark and the BJP’s losing its seats, did not alter the picture dramatically. The net benefit to Muslim representation was the addition of a second MLA, also from the Congress.

As shown in the graph below (see figure 3): In the first State Assembly election of 1952 in the State, Muslim candidates accounted for four per cent of the total nominations by the Congress (8 out of 225); the BJP (All India Bhartiya Jana Sangh, at the time) nominated no Muslim candidate. This was the only instance when the Congress’s nomination was proportionate to the Muslim population. Thereafter, the numbers declined. The BJP’s nomination of Muslims was the highest in 1962, 1980 and 1985–– but even this was an abysmal one per cent of its total candidates (Muslim nomination reached two per cent in 1977, when the BJP was part of the Janata Party) In the 2013 and 2018 State elections, the BJP nominated only one Muslim candidate, accounting for a mere 0.4 per cent of its total candidates in each election. The trends which can be seen across the graph, specifically from 1993 (see figure 3) show: a reduction in the Muslims presence in the legislature, decreasing presence of the Congress in the legislature, and a corresponding increase in the BJP’s hold over the legislature. It would appear then that there is an inverse relationship between the BJP’s ascendance and Muslim political marginalisation in Madhya Pradesh.

Gilles Verniers and Christophe Jaffrelot had also argued very similarly in the all-India context6. The addition of just one Muslim MLA (taking the total to two) with the return of the Congress in 2018 shows this in fact to be an entrenched trend The Congress, though themselves never nominated more than 4 per cent of Muslim candidates to its total candidates (In 2018, it was just 1 per cent of its total candidates, that is only 3; see chart 1 below), seems to be only relatively better for Muslim political representation. The Congress as a political force in the State got seriously weakened after the elections of 1993 (I call this an inflection point), when the BJP increased its share of seats, and no Muslim could get elected. The Babri-Masjid demolition and the ensuing riots in the country certainly played a role in this political marginality. From that point onward, Congress was not able to increase its seats share in the Assembly until 2018 when it doubled it seats to 114.

Though, both Congress and BJP led governments in M.P. fared badly for Muslims in the context of political representation, Congress is relatively better.

Table 3: Percentage of Muslim Candidates fielded by political parties (numbers in brackets)

Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly

BJP (BJS or JS) Muslim candidates

INC Muslim candidates

BJP (BJS or JS) Muslim winners

INC Muslim winners

1st LA 1952

0
(0/76)

4
(8/225)

0
(0/0)

3 (6/194)

2nd LA 1957

0
(0/127)

3
(9/228)

0
 (0/10)

1
(3/232)

3rd LA 1962

1
(1/195)

4
(11/228)

0
(0/41)

4 (6/142)

4th LA 1967

0

(0/265)

2

(7/296)

0

(0/78)

1

 (1/167)

5th LA 1972

0.4

(1/260)

2

(6/289)

0

(0/48)

2

 (5/220)

6th LA 1977*

2

(5/319)

3

(9/320)

5

(4/84)

0

 (0/230)

7th LA 1980

1

(3/310)

3

(10/320)

0

(0/40)

2

 (4/246)

8th LA 1985

1

(2/312)

2

(7/320)

2

(1/58)

2

 (4/250)

9th LA 1990

0.4

(1/269)

2

(6/318)

2

(1/56)

0

 (0/220)

10th LA 1993

0

(0/320)

2

(5/318)

0

 (0/117)

0

 (0/174)

11th LA 1998

0

(0/320)

2

(5/316)

0

 (0/119)

2

 (4/172)

12th LA 2003

0

(0/230)

2

(4/229)

0

 (0/173)

3

(1/38)

13th LA 2008

0

(0/228)

1

(3/228)

0

 (0/143)

1

(1/71)

14th LA 2013

0.4

(1/230)

2

(5/229)

0

 (0/165)

2

(1/58)

15th LA 2018

0.4

(1/230)

1

(3/229)

0

 (0/109)

2

 (2/114)

 

LA- Legislative Assembly. P.R.- Political Representation. INC (U) is not included in the INC Muslim tally of the Assembly of 1980. *In 1977, BJP was part of the Janata Party; Muslim candidates/Winners inflated numbers could not be considered as only BJP's selection of candidates. Source: ECI statistical reports. Mohd Osama, PhD Candidate, JMI; for 2018, no gazette is available still, but only a list of contesting candidates7.

Figure 3: Political presence of Muslims in M.P.

Comparative between INC and BJP in M.P.: Congress is good for Muslims in M.P.; We can see a trend of increasing deprivation of Muslims in the M.P. Legislative Assembly, over the course of time. Though, both Congress and BJP led governments in M.P. fared badly for Muslims in the context of political representation, Congress is relatively better. An inflection point is the Assembly of 1993 when the Muslim presence was zero, and BJP fared better than before. From that point, Congress is getting weaker, so does the Muslim presence in the Assembly.

LA- Legislative Assembly. P.R.- Political Representation. INC (U) is not included in the INC Muslim tally of the assembly of 1980. Source: ECI statistical reports. Mohd Osama, PhD Candidate, JMI; for 2018, no gazette is available still, but only a list of contesting candidates8.

Bahujan Samaj Party – nominating the most Muslims

Though, no Muslim candidate from the BSP has ever won an Assembly election in Madhya Pradesh to the party goes the credit for giving the most number of party tickets to Muslims. In 1990, the BSP nominated 18 Muslim candidates, when Congress nominated 6 and BJP nominated only one. In 1993 again, it nominated 18, while Congress and the BJP stood at 5 and 0, respectively. From 1998, when the BSP became a national party, till 2018, it has nominated an average of 7 candidates in subsequent elections, and nominated around 40 per cent of the total Muslim candidates (from 1998 – 34 out of 86; from 1990 – 52 out of 110) by the national parties (which have a more than 90 per cent share of the Assembly seats) in each election.

The importance of proportion-to-population Muslim political representation.

Muslims are inadequately represented in electoral politics across the country. Same is the case in the State of Madhya Pradesh, as seen above. Politically, Muslims are marginalised. Socio-economically also, they fare no better in Madhya Pradesh.

The Kundu Committee reports that 30 per cent of Muslims in Madhya Pradesh are poor; the comparative figure for India, is 25 per cent (based on Tendulkar’s poverty-line formulation). According to Sachar report, 92 per cent of Muslims in Madhya Pradesh live in urban areas. In the urban parts of the State, 41 per cent of the residents are poor, but 58 per cent of Muslims fall below the poverty line. The data on the monthly per-capita expenditure (MPCE), is similarly grim: The MPCE for urban residents in Madhya Pradesh was 893 (2004-05), but for Muslims residents, it was just 669 (Sachar 2006). Undoubtedly, Muslims in the State are poor. The policies related to poverty reduction in the State for Muslims are not as effective as they should be. The policies and programs are formulated in the legislature, and the lawmakers should be sensitive to the needs of his/her constituency. With so many other reasons, one reason for the poverty among Muslims is their under-representation in the legislature, where the policies for them are formulated. The arguments for the statistical presence of Muslims in the legislature, for their betterment, can be situated in the debates related to descriptive representation and substantive representation.

Anne Phillips in her book Politics of Presence argues that the normative requirement of proportional (to population) descriptive representation to women or ethnic minority led to more substantive representation of their issues (Phillips 1995). James Mansbridge also argues in the same vein, by stating that descriptive representation (blacks represent blacks, women represent women, and so on) improves the quality of deliberation, and provides social meaning and legitimacy to the historically disadvantaged communities (Mansbridge 1999). In an empirical study on the MPs of House of Commons in UK, Thomas Saalfeld and Daniel Bischof, found that MPs belonging to the social bracket of Black, Asian, and Minorty-Ethnic (BAME) identity, on an average, asked Parliamentary Questions (PQ) related to the rights of minority six times more, than non-BAME MPs (Saalfeld et al 2012). However, these arguments are not without opposition, like Hannah F. Pitkin argued that it is not necessary that a representative (here women) would "act in the interest of the represented" (Pitkin 1972).

Certainly, we can’t say that Muslim issues in Madhya Pradesh or for that matter in India, would be addressed or solved just by their presence in the Assembly (or Parliament), but it is almost certain that Muslims would feel important as voters and citizens, if their issues are raised in the legislature, and deliberated upon, by Muslim or even by non-Muslims MLAs.

Let’s see in the elections to come – How many Muslims would still be ‘missing’ from the candidates list and eventually from the elected members list?!

[Mohd Osama, PhD candidate, Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, and former Public Policy Scholar, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy.]

References:

[All URLs were last accessed on January 14, 2019]

1. Tewari, R and Arora, S. 2018. "BJP & Congress don’t want to field Muslims in Madhya Pradesh. Muslims say they understand", The Print, November 21. [https://theprint.in/politics/bjp-congress-dont-want-to-field-muslims-in-madhya-pradesh-muslims-say-they-understand/152474/]. Return To text.

2. Contesting Candidates list - Assembly Election 2018. [http://ceomadhyapradesh.nic.in/Election2018/Contesting%20Candidates%20list%20-%20Assembly%20Election%202018.pdf]. Return to Text.

3. Ibid. Return to Text.

4. Ibid. Return to Text.

5. Ibid. Return to Text.

6. Jaffrelot, C and Verniers, G. 2018. "The dwindling minority", The Indian Express, July 30. [https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/muslims-politicians-in-india-bjp-narendra-modi-government-5282128/]. Return to Text.

7. Contesting Candidates list - Assembly Election 2018. [http://ceomadhyapradesh.nic.in/Election2018/Contesting%20Candidates%20list%20-%20Assembly%20Election%202018.pdf]. Return to Text.

8. Ibid. Return to Text.

9. Census-Religion data. 2011. [https://www.census2011.co.in/religion.php].

10. Post-Sachar Evaluation Committee Report (2014): Ministry of Minority Affairs, New Delhi.

11. Phillips, Anne (1995): The Politics of Presence, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

12. Pitkin, Hannah F (1972): The Concept of Representation. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

13. Saalfeld, T and Bischof, D. 2012. "Minority-Ethnic MPs and the Substantive Representation of Minority Interests in the House of Commons, 2005–2011", Parliamentary Affairs, Vol. 66, Issue. 2, pp.305–328. DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1093/pa/gss084.

14. Sachar Commission Report (2006): Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India, Prime Minister? High Level Committee Cabinet Secretariat Government of India, New Delhi.

15. Mansbridge, J. 1999. "Should Blacks Represent Blacks and Women Represent Women? A Contingent "Yes"", The Journal of Politics, Vol. 61, Issue. 3, pp. 628–657.

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