The absence of the Muslim

Parties in Telangana have few Muslims in their candidate lists

November 20, 2023 01:15 am | Updated 01:15 am IST

Muslims in Telangana account for 12.68% of the State’s population. File

Muslims in Telangana account for 12.68% of the State’s population. File | Photo Credit: Ramakrishna G

Muslims in Telangana account for 12.68% of the State’s population, according to the 2011 Census. Yet, candidate lists across major party lines, with the exception of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), are sparsely populated by Muslim names. The trend is telling, especially considering that both the Congress and the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) have been actively courting the Muslim vote ahead of the Telangana Assembly elections.

According to official figures, the population of Telangana in 1961 was 1.27 crore, with the Muslim population pegged at 13 lakh. In 2011, the population of the State grew to over 3.50 crore, and the Muslim population increased to over 44 lakh. However, given that these figures are slightly dated, analysts estimate the size of the Muslim population to be over 50 lakh.

Poor representation

The BRS has fielded Muslim candidates in only three of the 119 Assembly constituencies, which means that representation stands at 2.5%. Of them, Mohammed Shakeel Aamir from the Bodhan Assembly constituency is a sitting legislator. The other two are Salahuddin Lodi from the Charminar constituency and Inayat Ali Baqri from Bahadurpura.

The Congress fares only slightly better. It fielded six Muslim candidates, which translates into a representation of a little over 5%. It has fielded three well-known faces: former Moradabad parliamentarian and cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin from Jubilee Hills, veteran leader and former minister Md Ali Shabbir from Nizamabad (Urban), and Feroz Khan, who will contest the Nampally seat for the third time with the party ticket. The other three are Osman al Hajiri from Karwan, Mujeebullah Shareef from Charminar, and Shaik Akbar from Malakpet.

The party that has fielded the largest number of Muslims in the State is the AIMIM. Eight of the nine candidates it has fielded belong to the Muslim community.

A close look at the data shows that most of the Muslim candidates have been fielded largely from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation area, which is overwhelmingly urban in nature. Second, parties seem to have fielded Muslim candidates disproportionately in Assembly segments of the Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency. These seats include Charminar, Malakpet, Karwan and Bahadurpura. While candidates, irrespective of whether they are contesting independently or as members of a party, have the right to enter the fray from any constituency, the odds in these four segments, at least as of now, appear to be heavily in favour of the AIMIM. These are in fact considered the AIMIM’s bastions. However, the Nampally and Jubilee Hills constituencies, which are not a part of the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat, are likely to witness an interesting and triangular fight between the AIMIM, Congress, and the BRS.

Substantive in number

Analysts believe that of the 119 Assembly constituencies, the Muslim vote is substantial in number in at least 25, and is likely to have a bearing on the election outcome. These constituencies include Khairtabad, Amberpet, Rajendranagar, Maheshwaram, Nizamabad (Urban), Bodhan, Sangareddy, Nirmal and Adilabad. There is a likelihood that the community vote will matter in constituencies in the composite districts of Nizamabad, where, according to official data, Muslims constitute over 15% of the population; Rangareddy and Medak where Muslims form about 12% of the population; and Adilabad where Muslims are over 10%.

Analysts and activists have long reiterated the need to improve representation of Muslims in Assemblies and Parliament. In the instant case, fewer Muslims on party candidate lists have yielded little representation in the Telangana State Legislative Assembly. As a natural consequence, the AIMIM has filled this gap.

Apart from the BRS’ Mohammed Shakeel Aamir and the Congress’ Md Ali Shabbir, parties have not fielded a Muslim candidate from districts other than Hyderabad.

The Muslim community aspires to be well-represented in the Assembly and Parliament. The fact that parties have not fielded candidates in proportion to the Muslim population, and that the Bharatiya Janata Party has not fielded a single Muslim candidate in Telangana, does not bode well for a representative democracy.

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