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Political Marginalisation of Muslims in Madhya Pradesh: Congress shuns secularism, indulges in appeasement of Hindutva constituency

Unlike in Karnataka, Congress is playing the Hindutva card brazenly in Madhya Pradesh, where assembly elections are due in December, observes Abdul Bari Masoud

Unlike in Karnataka, Congress is playing the Hindutva card brazenly in Madhya Pradesh, where assembly elections are due in December. Former Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who is seen as the face of Congress campaign, is frequently pictured with Hindu clerics. He recently claimed that it is unnecessary to mention that India is a “Hindu Rashtra”.

“Here, 82% of the population is Hindu. It is a settled matter. It’s not something you should explain. These are numbers. Why is it necessary to state it separately?” he remarked. While the Muslim voters, who account for more than 8 per cent of the total voters and played a significant role in bringing back the Congress to power in the 2018 assembly elections, were sidelined by the party.

In the 2018 assembly elections, no party secured a decisive majority in the state; the Congress earned a maximum of 114 seats among the 230-member House; 109 seats went to the BJP. With the backing of the SP, BSP, and independent candidates, the Congress established a coalition government led by Kamal Nath, who now heads the Congress party in the state.

But after 15 months, the Jyotiraditya Scindia-loyal majority of Congress MLAs defected and joined the BJP, leading to the downfall of the Nath government. In March 2020, the saffron party retook control, with Shivraj Singh Chouhan serving as chief minister once more.

As far as the Muslim community is concerned, they make up over 8% of Madhya Pradesh’s population. According to the 2011 census, the Muslim population in Madhya Pradesh is 47.75 lakh (6.57 per cent) of the total 7.26 crore. In the state capital Bhopal, which was once a Muslim princely state, the total Muslim population in the city is 472,578, which is 26.28% of the total population.

The Muslim demographic has the potential to influence the political landscape in numerous seats. However, Muslims are now less prevalent in Madhya Pradesh politics than they had been a few years ago. Seven Muslim candidates made to the state assembly in 1962 elections which is the highest Muslim representation so far in the state legislature.

Echoing the sentiments of Muslims who remain sidelined, veteran Congress leader Aziz Qureshi slammed his own party for playing the Hindutva card. He warned that “Muslims are not slaves who will act as per their orders”.

Opening a front against his own party, 82-year-old Qureshi said Muslims are not slaves of secular parties who ignore them.

“All parties, including the Congress, should understand that Muslims are not slaves or bonded labourers who will act as per their orders. Why should they vote for you when there are no jobs for them in the police, defence forces and banks?”

“Why should Muslims vote for you when they are not guaranteed bank loans?” he asked.

Qureshi, who has held office as Governor of Uttar Pradesh, a Minister in Madhya Pradesh, and a Member of Lok Sabha, made the pointed statements while addressing a meeting of Muslim leaders from the Congress in Vidisha to commemorate the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Continuing his lament, the former governor said, “Their shops, places of worship and houses are being burnt, their children are becoming orphans, they will tolerate to an extent. They aren’t cowards. If it crosses the limit, there would be no harm in one or two crore out of 22 crore Muslims laying down their lives,” he added.

Attacking Congress leaders for their appeasement of “Hindutva constituency”, Qureshi said they are now talking about Hindutva. “They are chanting ‘Jai Ganga Maiyya’, ‘Jai Narmada Maiyya’, and ‘Garva se kaho Hindu hain’, taking out religious yatras, and installing idols at the Madhya Pradesh Congress office. This is shameful,” he said.

The state Congress unit made an effort to keep the comments to a minimum. It’s his personal perspective, according to state party spokesperson KK Mishra. “The Congress rejects what he allegedly said and supports secularism.”

Many state-based Muslim leaders in Congress, who feel aggrieved at being ignored, nevertheless support Qureshi. What Qureshi sb stated is the voice of the community, as the Congress Party has taken Muslims for granted, said former Union Minister Aslam Sher Khan, who is also a former Hockey Olympian. Speaking with Radiance from Bhopal, Khan said Muslim votes did not matter anymore to Congress, which considers them “slaves” who have no other political option in the state.

He praised Muslim voters for their political awareness and claimed that they vote after giving it careful thought, as opposed to other voters who base their decisions on sentiment or religion. There are about 40 Assembly seats in the state where Muslim voters have a significant impact, yet the Congress only awards the community four to five tickets. Muslim voters are politically savvy and are not politically constrained, therefore they know who to vote (for or) against, Aslam Khan underlined.

Bhopal-based senior journalist Parvez Bari observed that in Madhya Pradesh, where it has always been principally a two-horse race viz. Congress and BJP, there is no silver lining for minorities especially the Muslims this time too to get much needed political space and remain confided to one or two Assembly seats.

He told Radiance that prior to demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 Congress in the state assembly elections used to give tickets to more than a dozen Muslim candidates out of which 6-8 emerged victorious as MLAs. However, after this Congress withdrew its hand fearing reprisal of rightwing forces and sidelined Muslims giving them just 3-4 tickets out of which only two in 2003, one in 2008, one in 2013 and two in 2018 won. In 1993 Assembly polls no Muslim candidate could become MLA while in 1998 there were four MLAs from the Congress Party who won.

He underlined that Kamal Nath organised a three-day narration of Ramkatha in Simaria of Chhindwara district, his home turf, by Peethadhishwar of Bageshwar Dham Pandit Dhirendra Krishna Shastri who reiterated for establishing a “Hindu Rashtra”.

In fact, on Shastri’s demands for a Hindu Rashtra, Nath responded saying: “If 82 per cent of the country is made up of Hindus, then what nation is this?” Prior to this in the recent past BJP had also held such events in different parts of the state using this young Hindu saint who had given a call for making India a “Hindu Rashtra”.

Congress leader Acharya Pramod Krishnam tweeted, “…performing aarti of BJP’s star campaigner doesn’t suit senior Congress leaders.” His indication was to the incident when Kamal Nath welcomed Pandit Dhirendra Krishna Shastri by performing an “Aarti”. Acharya Pramod also targeted Shastri by posting that Asaram Bapu too went to Chhindwara by plane. Asaram Bapu was convicted in a rape case.

He said former governor Qureshi has castrated Kamal Nath, who has portrayed himself as a Hanuman bhakt (devotee) by holding religious events centred around Hanuman, setting up a massive Hanuman idol at Chhindwara and has even welcomed the merger of the right-wing Bajrang Sena, which espouses the cause of the far right, into the Congress.

Six resolutions were approved during a meeting recently held by the Muslim Rashtriya Manch of the RSS in Bhopal. The fact that Muslims in Madhya Pradesh have less political representation now, however, is a different story. The number of MLAs attending the legislature has gradually declined.

 List of Muslim MLAs in Madhya Pradesh since 1957

Assembly Elections No. of

MLAs

Names of MLAs Constituency Party
1957 4 Shakir Ali Khan

Inayatullah Khan

Shafi Mohammad Subrati

Abdul Qadir Mohd Masoom Siddiqui

Bhopal

Sehore

Sagar

Burhanpur

CPI

INC

INC

INC

1962 7 Gulsher Ahmed

Abdul Hameed Dani

Shafi Mohammad Subrati

Inayatullah Khan Tarji Mashriqi

Khan Shakir Ali Khan

Abdul Ghayor Qureshi

Abdul Qadir Siddiqui

Amarpatan

Basna

Sagar

Sehore

Bhopal

Ujjain North

Burhanpur

INC

INC

INC

INC

CPI

INC

INC

1967 3 M.B. Khan

S. A. N. Ali

A. B. K. Baig

Jarhagaon

Bhopal South

Indore 1

INC

CPI

USP

1972 6 Gulsher Ahmed

Mohd Bashir Khan

Aziz Qureshi

N. Ali Khan

Khan Tarji Mashrikul

Akbarali Arif

Amarpatan

Jarhagaon

Sehore

Bhopal North

Sironj

Ratlam

INC

INC

INC

CPI

INC

INC

1977 3 Yakub Karim

Hamid Qureshi

Sharif Master

Mahasamund

Bhopal North

Sironj

JP

JP

JP

1980 6 Inayat Mohammad

Ghulam Ahmed

Abdul Rehman Farooqui

Rasool Ahmed Siddiqui

Mohd. Haroon Mohd. Amin

Hamidullah Khan

Jabalpur Central

Barwara

Seoni

Bhopal North

Burhanpur

Kawardha

INC

INC

INC

INC

INC

Ind.

1985 5 Ghulam Ahmed

Hasnat Siddiqui

Rasool Ahmed Siddiqui

Firoza Ahsan Ali

Imran Memon

Barwara

Bhopal South

Bhopal North

Burhanpur

Khujji

INC

BJP

INC

INC

INC

1990 2 Arif Aqueel

Ansari Mohd Ghani

Bhopal North

Chandla

Ind.

BJP

1993 No Muslim candidate won
1998 2 Haji Ghulam Sibtain

Sayeed Ahmed

Barwara

Satna

INC

INC

2003 2 Hamid Qazi

Arif Aqueel

Burhanpur

Bhopal North

NCP

INC

2008 1 Arif Aqueel Bhopal North INC
2013 1 Arif Aqueel Bhopal North INC
2018 2 Arif Aqueel Bhopal North INC

 

 

Tickets given to Muslim candidates by BJP and Congress in last few elections

Party Year No. of

Seats

Names of

Candidates

Constituency
BJP  

2018

1 Fatima Siddiqui Bhopal North
Congress 3 Arif Aqueel

Musarrat Shahid

Arif Masood

Bhopal North

Sironj

Bhopal Central

BJP 2013 1

5 Muslim candidates (1 won)

Congress
BJP 2008 No Muslim candidate

5 Muslim candidates (1 won)

Congress
BJP 2003 No Muslim candidate

5 Muslim candidates (1 won)

Congress

 

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