The number of Muslim MPs in the 16th Lok Sabha will be the lowest in 50 years, The Hindu’s analysis of the 2014 election results has found. Just 22 Muslims have been elected, seven fewer than in the outgoing House.
Muslims now make up just over four per cent of parliamentarians despite their accounting for over 13 per cent of the population as of 2001. There were over 30 Muslim MPs for the past 15 years, over 25 for the 20 years before that and over 40 for the 10 years between 1980 and 1989.
With the Bharatiya Janata Party sweeping the election but nominating fewer than five Muslim candidates across the country, the likelihood of a Muslim from the party making it to Parliament fell substantially. None of the BJP’s five candidates won, but its ally, the Lok Jan Shakti Party, had one Muslim candidate who won in Khagaria (Bihar). Eight of the Muslims who won were UPA candidates — four from the Congress, one from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and two from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Civil society worried
The development has Muslim civil society worried. Reacting to the news of dwindling representation in the Lok Sabha, Zafarul Islam Khan, president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, an umbrella body of over two dozen representative bodies, said that with the BJP becoming so powerful in national politics now, Muslims would soon be made “irrelevant.”
The 16th Lok Sabha will be under-represented by women as usual, though it is likely to have the highest ever number of them. Of the 543 MPs, only 62, or a little more than 11 per cent, are women. This is a negligible improvement over 2009, when 61 women candidates were elected to the Lower House.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party scores when it comes to the highest number of women MPs — out of the 58, 28 are from the BJP. The party had fielded 35 women candidates.
The Trinamool Congress comes second with 11 of its 24 candidates emerging victorious. While none of the AAP’s four victorious candidates are women, the Congress will send three women MPs to Parliament.
Out of a total number of 8,163 candidates, 636 women contested elections across the country. In 2009, 556 (6.9 per cent) women candidates had contested out of a total of 8,070.
While many among the winners are expected faces such as the Congress’ Sonia Gandhi, the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj and the PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti, the results also sprang surprises. Heena Gavit, 26, a first-timer from the BJP, defeated nine-time MP Manikrao Gavit from the Nandurbar constituency in Maharashtra, a place from where the Congress had never lost before. Other first-timers include Hema Malini of the BJP from Mathura.
Speaking to reporters, Ms. Gavit stated that it was a huge responsibility being a woman MP. “We are historically under-represented. It will be my duty to speak up on women’s issues and do justice to my victory,” she said.
(With additional reporting by Mohammed Ali in Delhi)