One Muslim candidate turns Muslims against Congress
In a state whose capital was once ruled by Muslim kings, the Congress has put up just one Muslim candidate in Madhya Pradesh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) none. No wonder Muslims are unhappy.india Updated: Apr 19, 2009 09:46 IST
In a state whose capital was once ruled by Muslim kings, the Congress has put up just one Muslim candidate in Madhya Pradesh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) none. No wonder Muslims are unhappy.
Community leaders say while they did not expect anything better from the BJP, it was disappointing that the Congress was increasingly ignoring the political aspirations of Muslims, who are four million strong in what was India's biggest state until Chhattisgarh was carved out of it in 2000.
Madhya Pradesh has 29 Lok Sabha constituencies. But the only Muslim in the Congress list is former hockey star Aslam Sher Khan, who is contesting from Sagar constituency.
"This is despite the fact that Muslims have the potential to win in several constituencies," said Congress leader Gufran-e-Azam, who in 1980 was elected to the Lok Sabha from Betul defeating BJP's Subhash Ahuja.
"There are at least four constituencies - Indore, Khandwa, Betul and Mandsaur - where percentage of Muslim voters is above 30. But the Congress hasn't fielded a Muslim from these places," he said.
Muslim activists alleged that the Congress has used Muslims as a "vote bank" without giving them opportunities to empower them politically. This, they say, is why Muslims are getting alienated from the party.
The only other party to have fielded a Muslim in this election is the Samajwadi Party, whose Munawar Salim is contesting from Bhopal, which was once a princely state ruled by Muslim kings.
In independent India's first general elections in 1952, Muslims won from Hoshangabad and Bhopal on Congress ticket. Syed Ahmad defeated socialist Harivishnu Kamath from Hoshangabad and Syedullah Razmi defeated Udhavdas Mehta of Hindu Mahasabha from Bhopal.
In the 1957 and 1962 Lok Sabha elections, Memoona Sultan defeated Hindu Mahasabha candidates Haridayal Devgar and Om Prakash respectively in Bhopal. In 1977, Arif Beg contested on a Bharatiya Lok Dal ticket and created history by defeating Congress stalwart Shankar Dayal Sharma, who later became the president of India.
Muslim candidates have contested from Betul seven times and won on four occasions.
Gufran-e-Azam of Congress overcame Subhash Ahuja of BJP in 1980. In 1984 Aslam Sher Khan of Congress defeated former Madhya Pradesh chief secretary M.N. Buch of BJP.
Again in 1989, Arif Beg, then in BJP, defeated Aslam Sher Khan in Betul, who avenged his defeat in 1991. After 1991, no Muslim has been able to win from Betul.
Muslims have been victorious from Satna constituency at least twice. Gulsher Ahmad of Congress defeated Sukhendra Singh of Janata Party in 1980 and Aziz Qureshi of Congress worsted Brijendra Pathak of BJP in 1984.
Even in the Madhya Pradesh assembly today, there is only Muslim member. Arif Aqeel was elected from Bhopal on Congress ticket in the 2008 assembly elections.
Muslims say the picture began to change in Madhya Pradesh after communal divide deepened in the wake of the emotive campaign to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya at the site of the Babri mosque.
"Neither the BJP nor the Congress has fielded Muslims after communal polarisation following the Ayodhya dispute. This has depressed the Muslim community," said eminent Urdu poet Rehbar Jaunpuri.
Said another Urdu poet, Manzar Bhopali: "There is undoubtedly a sense of alienation among Muslims as they feel Congress has exploited them without giving ample representation."
Madhya Pradesh Muslim Vikas Parishad president Mohammad Mihir added: "Muslims are not satisfied about their representation. The Congress didn't allow Muslim leadership to develop even in places like Indore and Jabalpur that have large Muslim populations. But the Congress isn't bothered."
Political analyst Ishrat Patel said: "For Muslims there is no difference between the BJP and the Congress. If the former is against Muslims because of its ideology, the later has sidelined Muslims in a planned manner."
As for the BJP, it is in no mood to field Muslim candidates. Its spokesman Uma Shankar Gupta said: "Ticket is given on the basis of winnability."