New Delhi: The BJP will have no Muslim representative in Parliament after the terms of three incumbent Rajya Sabha MPs — Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Syed Zafar Islam and M.J. Akbar — end in June and July.
The ruling party has 301 members in the Lok Sabha, but none of them is Muslim.
Naqvi, the Union Minority Affairs Minister, will bid adieu to the Upper House of Parliament on 7 July. Islam’s tenure ends on 4 July, while Akbar will retire on 29 June. While 57 seats across 15 states are up for grabs on 10 June, no Muslim figures in the BJP’s list of Rajya Sabha candidates.
BJP’s Minority Morcha chief Jamal Siddiqui sought to put the onus for the poor representation on Muslims, saying they have chosen the wrong platforms to represent the community electorally.
“Naqvi sahab, Zafar sahab and other Muslim leaders were in the Rajya Sabha because of their own merit, and not because of their faith. Naqvi sahab is among the top leaders of the party. (Former Deutsche Bank managing director) Zafar sahab knows finance in and out, and we all know how renowned M.J. Akbar is as a journalist,” Siddiqui said.
“The BJP has never sent anyone to the House, or removed them, on the basis of religion. It is not true that the party doesn’t have representation of Muslims, but, as a community, we need to introspect. Muslims have considered wrong people their heroes.”
Siddiqui said the party may have had its reasons not to re-nominate Naqvi and Zafar. “The party might have more important roles for them,” he added.
Political analysts believe the low representation will eventually be a cause of concern for the BJP.
Ahead of the 2022 Uttar Pradesh election, Siddiqui had said in an interview with ThePrint that the BJP should field at least 20 Muslim candidates as the morcha had “identified 100 seats that have 30 per cent minority population, 140 with 20 per cent minority vote and 40 with 60-70 per cent”.
But the BJP repeated its 2017 pattern of not fielding Muslims in Uttar Pradesh. Its ally, the Apna Dal (Sonelal), fielded Haider Ali, but he lost from Suar to Samajwadi Party veteran Azam Khan’s son Abdullah Azam Khan.
While Mohsin Raza was the lone Muslim face in the Yogi Adityanath government in 2017, Danish Azad Ansari replaced him as the minorities welfare minister in the second edition. Like Raza, Ansari is also likely to take the Legislative Council route to continue as minister.
“It is true that there is no dearth of potential talented leaders in the community, but, unfortunately, they have been using the wrong platform. That is why the community could not progress much . If Muslims connect with us, and are willing to join the BJP, they will surely be given the platform and opportunity to grow in the party,” Siddiqui told ThePrint.
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No Muslims in Lok Sabha, assemblies from BJP
In the 17th Lok Sabha, Lok Janshakti Party’s Choudhary Mehboob Ali Kaiser from Bihar’s Khagaria constituency is the only Muslim MP from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The BJP fielded 6 Muslim candidates in the 2019 general elections, but all of them lost. The party’s 7 candidates in 2014 faced the same outcome.
The BJP’s Muslim representation is poor at the level of states and Union territories as well. Syed Shahnawaz Hussain in Bihar and Mohsin Raza and Bukkal Nawab in Uttar Pradesh — all members of the legislative councils — constitute its Muslim representation in states.
In Assam, where 31 MLAs are Muslim, none belongs to the BJP or its allies.
The number of Muslim MLAs in Uttar Pradesh rose to 34 in 2022, but none is from the BJP. Danish Azad Ansari is the lone Muslim face in the Yogi Adityanath government but he did not contest the 2022 assembly election.
In West Bengal, which has the highest number of Muslim legislators at 44, 43 are from the Trinamool Congress and one from the Indian Secular Front. In the 2021 West Bengal assembly election, the BJP fielded 9 Muslim candidates but all of them lost.
Former Rajasthan minister Yunus Khan, the BJP’s sole Muslim minister in the Vasundhara Raje government formed in 2018, said the decisions about whom to field are taken by the party’s parliamentary board, which is the highest decision-making body of the party.
He refused to comment further on queries about how he sees the representation of Muslim community in the BJP.
Political analyst Rasheed Kidwai asserted that the issue is far more complex.
“It takes two to tango. Normally, in a democracy, two sides have a mutual interest and it works fine for both. But unfortunately it has been a problem between the BJP and the Muslims since the time of the Jana Sangh. It is a bit unfortunate, but it is not a simplistic equation that blame may be put on the BJP’s doorstep because they also need diversity and representation considering vote-bank politics,” Kidwai told ThePrint.
The Muslims are also not drawn towards the BJP, he said. “But in a democracy, it is all about numbers, So if a community is 16-18 per cent of the total population, it must reflect in the party and political positions, and, therefore, it is a cause of concern for the BJP.”
Arvind Kumar, political analyst and scholar at University of London, said it “is one of the important strategies of the BJP that it has tried to project marginalisation of Muslims in politics — but not much in the economic or social sphere”.
“If someone is in a political office for a long time, it results in creation of a power centre. They might bring another Muslim leader in the House soon, but a new leader will not have the same influence and power that the outgoing ones had,” he added.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
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