Just the fourth Muslim MLA for BJP

Updated - November 16, 2021 04:50 pm IST

Published - December 24, 2014 01:36 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Abdul Gani Kohli. Special Arrangement

Abdul Gani Kohli. Special Arrangement

When Abdul Ghani Kohli, 71, won the Kala Kote Assembly constituency in Jammu by a little over 6,000 votes, he was making history for the Bharatiya Janata Party.

He became only the fourth Muslim MLA from the party in the country, out of over 1,000 legislators.

Since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when Muslim representation in Parliament declined to its lowest level in over 50 years, the community’s representation in the State legislatures has also been declining.

With the BJP sweeping to power in Maharashtra and Haryana in October, the number of Muslim MLAs declined in those two States from 11 to nine, and from five to three respectively.

In both Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir, the number of Muslim MLAs has declined after Tuesday’s results. The BJP did not nominate any Muslim candidate in Jharkhand, where it won 37 seats. It nominated 32 Muslim candidates in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority State, of whom one, Mr. Kohli, won. This takes the total tally of Muslim MLAs of the BJP across 22 major States to 4 out of 1,016 total MLAs: two in Rajasthan, one in Bihar, and Mr. Kohli.

Speaking to the Press Trust of India, Mr. Kohli, the first Muslim candidate to win on BJP ticket in the State, said: “People have voted on the development plank of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

The demographics of Kala Kote, Mr. Kohli’s constituency, demonstrate the BJP’s problem in winning Muslim votes. According to estimates for constituency-wise religious data shared with The Hindu by Datanet India, Kala Kote has fewer than 50 per cent Muslims. Among the 57 constituencies in the State with clear Muslim majorities, the BJP won zero seats. The party, however, won the four seats that are almost equally Muslim and Hindu.

In the 46 seats that constitute the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, the BJP didn’t just lose the election; its candidates lost their deposits, with single-digit vote shares, in all but one of the 34 seats they contested, The Hindu found.

Similarly in the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP did not win any of India’s 15 Muslim-majority constituencies.

So is the party worried about its Muslim problem? “In local and municipal elections in States like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, the party has given tickets to many Muslim candidates who have won,” said Nalin Kohli, the BJP’s national spokesperson.

“It is important for us to increase the representation of people from all walks of life. When it comes to increasing Muslim representation, it might take a little more time to build acceptability, both for the party within the community, and for Muslim candidates from the electorate,” Mr. Kohli said.

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