While the share of the Muslim population in India increased from around 10% in 1951 to 14% in 2011, and further rose to 15% in 2020, according to a projection by the Pew Research Centre, the share of the Muslim Members of Parliament (MPs) never crossed the 10% mark, and has sharply reduced in the last 15 years.
Chart 1 | The chart shows the share of Muslim MPs (in %) in India from the third to the seventeenth Lok Sabha.
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The share declined to 5% or less in the latest three Lok Sabhas (UPA 2, NDA 1, NDA 2) similar to the proportion recorded in the 1990s. After peaking at 8.3% in the 1980s — 7th (1980-84) and 8th (1984-89) Lok Sabhas — the decline in the share of Muslim MPs in the 1990s coincided with the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) whose total MP tally crossed the 100 mark for the first time in the 10th Lok Sabha (1991-96). After the slump, the share again incrementally increased and grew close to 7% in the 14th Lok Sabha (UPA 1: 2004-09), coinciding with the dip in the BJP’s MP count in the 2000s following a consistent rise in the 1990s.
Given the minuscule number of Muslim candidates put up by the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, the Muslim MP share in the Lok Sabha had an inverse relationship with the BJP’s MP count — the share decreased when BJP’s count increased and vice-versa.
Chart 2 | The chart shows the share of Muslim MPs in the BJP and the Congress (in %) from the third to the seventeenth Lok Sabha.
Since the BJP’s entry into the Lok Sabha in 1984, it has had negligible Muslim presence amongst its elected MPs, oscillating between 0% and 0.3% till 2009. There were no Muslim MPs from the BJP in the latest two Lok Sabhas.
More interestingly, the share of Muslim MPs in the Congress has also sharply declined from its peak of around 7.5% in the 6th, 7th and 8th Lok Sabhas (1977-89) to 1.1% in the current Lok Sabha. The overall share of Muslim MPs plotted in Chart 1 largely mimics the share of Muslim MPs in the Congress. However, this trend has deviated considerably in the last 15 years, following the sharp decline in the party’s presence in the Lok Sabha.
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Chart 3 | The chart shows the share of the Muslim MPs in each party in the current Lok Sabha. Only parties with at least one Muslim MPs were included. Total Muslim MPs and their share in each party is listed.
The void left by the Congress is to an extent filled by other non-BJP parties in recent years. All MPs from parties such as the Indian Union Muslim League and the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference are Muslims. Of the five MPs from the Samajwadi Party, three are Muslims.
Chart 4 | The chart shows the State-wise proportion (in %) of Muslim MPs over time. Union Territories with just one MP were not considered.
States with no record of Muslim MPs ever have been excluded from the chart. Notably, Uttarakhand with a significant share of the Muslim population (14%), belongs to this list. Tripura (9% Muslim population), Manipur and Goa (8% each) are also on the list.
Among States with over 15% Muslim population, Kerala, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar and West Bengal have largely maintained a consistent number of Muslim MPs over time. The two exceptions are Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. Jharkhand elected just one Muslim MP across four terms. In Uttar Pradesh, the share of the Muslim MPs peaked at 18% in the early 1980s, which fell to just 1% in 2014.
Among States with a 10-15% Muslim share in the population such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, the share of Muslim MPs has plummeted over time. In fact, except for Maharashtra, the rest don’t have a Muslim MP currently.
Methodology: To identify Muslim MPs, character-based machine learning models developed by Rachana and Sugat Chaturvedi in their 2023 paper “It’s all in the name: A character-based approach to infer religion” was implemented. Their Support Vector Machine algorithm was applied to the names of MPs to predict their religion. This was followed by manual checks to correct false positives and false negatives
With inputs from Jibrail Ismail and Hudson Joshiya J.
Anushka Kataruka, Jibrail Ismail and Hudson Joshiya J. and interning with The Hindu Data Team
Source: Lok Dhaba
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