A couple of Muslims in House, but Gujarat doesn't care
Muslims comprise 9% of Gujarat's 60 mn people, but when it comes to representation in the Assembly, only 2 of them were elected to the 182-seat House this time. Abhijit Patnaik and Prasad Nichenametla report. GPP hit Cong, BJP fortunes | Modi thanks Maninagarindia Updated: Dec 22, 2012 13:02 IST
Muslims comprise 9% of Gujarat's 60 million people, but when it comes to representation in the state legislature, only two of them were elected to the 182-seat assembly this time.
The representation of Muslims in Gujarat's political system has always been skewed against the community, but Thursday's verdict brought it to a new low. It is the lowest since 1995, when the BJP came to power in the state for the first time.
That year, just one Muslim -- an Independent - had got elected.The numbers improved in subsequent elections, touching a peak of five in 2007. But all five were from the Congress. The BJP has never fielded a Muslim since coming to power.
The disproportionate representation began when BJP started making inroads in the state, the late '80s and the early '90s, analysts say.
In 1990, when there was a nationwide wave against the Congress, only one Muslim candidate got elected. It was a sharp drop from the seven seats won by Muslims in 1985, when Madhavsinh Solanki of Congress stitched up the famous KHAM -- Kshatriya, Adivasi, Muslim - alliance to secure a record victory.
The tally has not been bettered.
Some insist it shouldn't matter as a Muslim MLA is not necessarily better equipped to protect the community's interest.
"The BJP legislators are doing more for the Muslims. The idea behind chief minister Narendra Modi's Sadhbhavana Yatra was to bring Muslims back to the mainstream," said Asifa Khan, who has joined the BJP from the Congress.
Modi had launched the Sadbhavna campaign ahead of the elections in an apparent bid to reconcile with the Muslims, who have seen widespread social alienation after the 2002 riots. But he stopped short of picking any Muslim candidate, fearing it might anger the majority Hindu voters.
Gujarat has at least 15 assembly segments, where Muslims have a decisive presence, but they don't seem to have voted en bloc for or against any one party.
"I voted for the BJP as it was a BJP leader who helped me set up my business," said Saddam Hussein, 22, a resident of Ahmedabad.
"We don't think Modi has intentionally kept Muslims backward," said Shabir Hussain, 42, a staunch Congress supporter.
"Modi might not have pushed them backward but he also did nothing to take them forward," said Ghanshyam Shah, a former JNU professor.
"The 2002 riots still ring in their minds."