Muslims 16% of population but representation in Union Cabinet may slip to nil; no Muslim minister in 15 states

Three Muslims MPs from the treasury benches – Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Syed Zafar Islam and MJ Akbar – have failed to secure a renomination to the Rajya Sabha

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has not been fielded for Rajya Sabha or from two Lok Sabha seats going for bypolls
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has not been fielded for Rajya Sabha or from two Lok Sabha seats going for bypolls
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NH Political Bureau

With three Muslims MPs from the treasury benches – Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Syed Zafar Islam and MJ Akbar – not getting a renomination to Rajya Sabha, Muslims’ representation in the Union Cabinet led by PM Modi may soon become nil.

This will be the first time since 1947 that no Muslim will be part of the Union Cabinet, despite Muslims forming 16 per cent of the total pollution of India.

Not only this, this will be the first time in post-Independence India that the ruling party will not have any member hailing from the minority community in Parliament.

Earlier, it was expected that perhaps for the sake of optics, Naqvi, who is handling minority affairs in Modi’s cabinet, may be fielded either from Rampur or Azamgarh whereby polls are to be held, but by failing to do so, the BJP has made it clear that in the scheme of Hindutva politics, it no longer cares about public perception on such issues.

Naqvi will lose his Cabinet seat if he doesn't get elected as an MP within six months as his tenure gets over on July 7. The by-poll for Azamgarh and Rampur Lok Sabha seats will be held on June 23.

Still, many hope that BJP may nominate a prominent Muslim leader to the upper house. The President has the authority to nominate 12 MPs to Rajya Sabha and currently, there are seven vacancies in the nominated category.

But a close scrutiny of Indian politics, dominated by communal agenda, indicates that such hopes may well not come true as it is not only the BJP at the Centre which is responsible for the exclusion of the largest minority community from the politics/system.

There is no Muslim Chief minister in India at present despite a considerable population of the community. In fact, in 15 states with substantial population of Muslims, there is not even a single minister in the cabinet.

This includes Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand.

In the state of Delhi where Muslims form about 13 per cent of the total population, the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government has only one Muslim minister.

In comparison to other states, TMC-ruled West Bengal (30 percent) fares best with seven ministers, followed by Maharashtra (12 percent) that recently inducted four ministers from the minority community. In his latest cabinet expansion carried out on Monday, CM Uddhav Thackeray inducted four Muslim MLAs into his council of ministers, making Maharashtra the state with the second largest number of Muslim ministers after West Bengal.

In 8 states – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh – the council of Ministers have only one Muslim minister each.

In Kerala, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front government has two Muslim ministers – K.T. Jaleel and A.C. Moideen.

Interestingly, Uttar Pradesh that has the largest Muslim population in the (20 per cent) has only one Muslim minister in the council led by CM Yogi Adityanath.

Given the poor representation of Muslims in Parliament and the communities relatively poor performance in socio-economic indices, the then PM Manmohan Singh had formed a high-level committee, called the Sachar Committee, to look into the matter and suggest measures to uplift their status in India in 2005.

“Over the last sixty years, minorities have scarcely occupied adequate public spaces. The participation of Muslims in nearly all political spaces is low which can have an adverse impact on Indian society and polity in the long run,” the panel had observed.

Interestingly, the Modi government released a status report in 2019 which claimed that Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Chandigarh were among the states and Union Territories that have implemented the recommendations of the Sachar Committee and had agreed to include minorities in their urban and rural local bodies.

Other states like Assam, Chhattisgarh, (erstwhile) Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh didn’t submit any information, said the report.

Political observers feel that the shrinking of Muslim representation in Parliament and in the decision-making process is linked to the rise of the right-wing under PM Modi.

“The exclusion of the largest minority community from the system signifies that India has become a Hindu version of a monolithic Jewish or Islamic state…Gone are those days when words like secularism, diversity, inclusion were guiding the politics. Today’s dispensation will go to any extent to have complete clutch over power,” said an analyst on the condition of anonymity.

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    Published: 06 Jun 2022, 6:07 PM