A lot of noise is made in the media and other spaces about Muslim appeasement politics. This comes not just from the supporters of BJP but also from sections of ‘Liberals’.
As it happens, the myth of Muslim appeasement not only provided BJP with an initial justification for its communal politics in the 80s but also since then has consistently acted as a cover for more marginalization.
Even before the rise of BJP, Muslims were very underrepresented. But their representation has further fallen since then. This continuing marginalization comes with immense violence perpetrated in the form of communal riots. Every major communal riot or event of polarisation has been followed by a steep fall in number of Muslims elected. Here, I present the case of UP and Gujarat.
UP has been the melting pot of the diverging elements of caste and communal politics. Muslims constitute almost 19% of the state’s population. In 1980 and 1985 elections, Muslim legislators constituted 11.7% and 12.2% of the assembly respectively, an already insufficient representation. In the wake of the Ramjanmbhoomi movement, Muslim representation fell to 9.6% in 1989 assembly elections and to an abysmal 5.5% in 1991 elections when BJP emerged as the single largest party.
By 1997 elections, it was back to 11.7 %. This restoration takes place as the Ramjanm Bhoomi movement and post-Babri demolition violence had subsided as also BJP had decided to keep its controversial issue on the back-burner for the moment. The clock had been reset.
In 2002 elections BJP lost its government, sliding to third position behind Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. Muslim representation remained static. In 2007 as BJP continued to lose ground in UP, Muslim representation rose to 13.9%; and by 2012, it was 17.1% , almost proportional to their population.
By 2012, BJP was in full decline in the state. Its share of UPs Lok Sabha seats had fallen from 59 in 1998 to 10 in 2009. In the same period, no. of Muslim MPs elected from UP in 2004 and 2009 was 8 and 7 (out of 80) respectively.
Muzaffarnagar riot reversed this trajectory. 2014 elections took place just seven months after the riot. As BJP won 71 seats in the state, no. of Muslim MPs from the state was 0.
For the first time since independence, the ruling party at center did not have a single Muslim MP in the Lok Sabha.
In 2017 assembly elections BJP won 309 of 403 seats. Muslim representation plummeted from 17.1% in 2012 to 5.9%.
As of now, 44 million Muslims of UP are represented by 1 Rajya Sabha MP, 6 Lok Sabha MPs, 10 MLCs and 23 MLAs. The figures should be 6, 16, 20 and 80 respectively.
Another case in point is Gujarat, a state with 9% Muslim population, where the representation of the community had always remained very insufficient but from the 80s, it plummeted to dismal levels. In 1980 and 1985 elections, percentage of Muslim MLAs stood at 6% and 4.9% respectively. Ahmedabad riots of 1985 and the subsequent Ram Janmbhoomi movement gave impetus to BJP leading to the formation of a BJP coalition government in 1990 as Muslim representation plummeted to 1%. In 1995 election it further went down to 0.5% i.e. just 1 MLA.
Unlike UP where there was a recovery from the late 90s, Muslims never recovered in Gujarat. In 2017 election, Muslim representation in the state stood at 1.6% i.e. 3 MLAs, all of them from Congress.
Since 1989, Gujarat hasn’t sent a single Muslim MP from Gujarat. The last Muslim candidate to win a Lok Sabha election was Ahmad Patel in 1984. In 1962 election, the first one after the state was formed, 1 Muslim MP was elected from the state. In 1977, 2 Muslim MPs, highest Muslim representation ever.
Muslims in the state have been completely unrepresented. 2002 Gujarat riots and continued communal polarization and vilification have further pushed the Muslim community in the state to the brink.
Source of the Data: SPINPER (The Social Profile of India’s National and Provincial Elected Representatives) (1919–2019), CNRS, Sciences Po, Ashoka University and Bordeaux University.
Shaheen Muddassir studies History and Political Science at Jamia Millia Islamia.
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