Muslim Representation in Indian Politics Under Scrutiny Ahead of General Elections

Mon Apr 08 2024
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RAMPUR, India: In the Indian city of Rampur, where more than half of the voters are Muslim, the member of parliament staunchly supports Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-first agenda, highlighting a broader trend across Hindu-majority India.

Despite Muslims constituting nearly a fifth of India’s 1.4 billion population, Muslim representation in parliament has dwindled to less than five percent since the 1970s, reflecting a significant decline.

Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi, confident of re-election as MP for Rampur in Uttar Pradesh state, underscores the BJP’s stronghold, which many perceive as hindering the electoral prospects of Muslim candidates.

Ziya Us Salam, an author specializing in Muslim issues in India, notes the historical trust placed by Muslims in secular parties, contributing to a notable absence of Muslim leadership in contemporary politics.

In contrast, Narendra Modi’s rhetoric positioning India as a “Hindu Rashtra” garners widespread support without accusations of sectarianism, showcasing a double standard in political discourse.

Salam argues that electoral boundaries have been redrawn over decades to dilute Muslim influence, impacting areas like Rampur, which historically elected Muslim MPs but now faces BJP dominance.

Kanwal Bharti, an activist from Rampur, echoes the sentiment that a Muslim candidate’s victory seems increasingly unlikely in the BJP’s political landscape.

The departure of Rampur’s veteran Muslim MP, Mohammad Azam Khan, amid legal challenges and accusations of intimidation, exemplifies broader challenges faced by Muslim politicians.

Asaduddin Owaisi, a lawmaker advocating for Muslim unity, criticizes secular parties for hesitating to nominate Muslim candidates, fearing they may not appeal to Hindu voters.

The BJP refutes claims of religious discrimination, emphasizing that electoral outcomes are contingent on candidate performance rather than religious identity.

Despite the BJP’s aspirations for diverse representation, Salam contends that Muslims are being systematically marginalized from the democratic process through various means, including electoral tactics and intimidation.

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