‘Urban-rural divide trumps communalism in elections’

(From left) Christophe Jaffrelot, Irfan Engineer, Sushma Deshpande and Shama Dalwai at a panel discussion on Thursday.

(From left) Christophe Jaffrelot, Irfan Engineer, Sushma Deshpande and Shama Dalwai at a panel discussion on Thursday.  

Cong.’s win in 3 States no guarantee for better minority representation: Jaffrelot

Mumbai: The urban-rural divide prevailed over the communal cleavage resulting in a victory for the Congress in the recent elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, French political scientist and author Christophe Jaffrelot said on Wednesday. He was delivering a talk on the marginalisation of Indian Muslims in the politics and State apparatus of India.

Mr. Jaffrelot, professor of Indian politics and sociology at King’s India Institute, sounded a cautionary note that a Congress government in the three States may not necessarily mean a better representation for Muslims, especially in the legislature. “The Grand Old Party must be reminded by the electorate at all times when it moves away from the secular core and the Nehruvian philosophy,” he said.

“I think the decisive factor in the Assembly elections was not communal, but the urban-rural divide. It is not a question of which is the lesser of the two (Bharatiya Janata Party/Congress) evils, but instead the nature of it. Both, however, must be at all times reminded of the (communal) red line,” Mr. Jaffrelot said when asked if the Congress’s performance in giving minorities a representation has been any better than the BJP over the years.

“There is a little chance that things would improve even with a Congress win in the three States,” he said at the event organised by the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism.

He said this new emerging template with a focus on rural versus urban rather than communal is the way forward and must be replicated by other States. “Along with reservation for the Muslims in jobs and education, promoting communal harmony could be the long-term remedy to address fractions in the Indian society existing as a result of communalism,” the professor of Indian politics said.

The talk was delivered on the sidelines of the launch of book Babri Masjid, 25 Years On … and a panel discussion with professors and activists Irfan Engineer, Shama Dalwai and theatre artiste Sushma Deshpande. The panel stressed on the importance of preserving the memories related to the demolition of the Babri Mosque nearly 25 years ago.

According to professor Jaffrelot, Maharashtra’s performance has been equally abysmal in giving minorities a fair representation. The State had, irrespective of the nature of the regime, never given more than 5% representation to the Muslims in 1990s and the 2000s in the Assembly.

The State surpasses only Gujarat among bigger States who have performed poorly on the minority report card. “In 2014, nearly 400 Muslim candidates fought independently in Maharashtra because nobody gave them tickets. That tells you something about the state of affairs here,” Mr. Jaffrelot said.

Overall, the Muslim representation in various spheres has been dipping, and unless drastic measures such as giving them a reservation are taken up, there will be no improvement. As per the data provided by Mr. Jaffrelot, the representation of Muslims in the Lok Sabha from its peak of 9% in the 1980 had come down to just 3.7% in 2014.

In the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) and the Indian Police Services (IPS), the gap is nearly 11% with the representation hovering at around 3% for a population increase of 4.5% between 1978 and 2016. Only the 1995 batch (IAS) had a record 8% representation by the Muslims. “It matters they are represented properly in Parliament. A recent set of data showed 3.7% of the Muslim Members of Parliament were responsible for asking 23% of the total questions related to minority issues. In that sense, it does make a difference if a person from the community is representing voters’ interest in the Assembly,” he said.

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Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 7:18:25 PM |

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