Muslims 9, Lingayats 37: Karnataka Assembly Lacks Proportionality

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Sami Ahmad

NEW DELHI –With a population of around 13 percent in the state, only 9 Muslim candidates succeeded in the Karnataka Assembly elections 2023.

According to a report published in Deccan Herat, 37 Lingayats got elected as MLA. The Lingayats are said to be around 17 percent of the state.

Not only the Lingayats but others like Vokkaliga and Kurbas too got higher representation in Assembly seats.

All the 9 Mulsim MLAs belong to the Congress party which had fielded 15 candidates.

The nine successful Muslim candidates are 1. Rahim Khan from Bidar, 2. U.T. Khader from Mangaluru, 3. Tanveer Sait from Narasimharaja, 4. Asif (Raju) Sait from Belagavi North, 5. Rizwan Arshad from Shivajinagar, 6. B.Z. Zameer Ahmed Khan from Chamarajpet, 7. Kaneez Fatima from Gulbarga (Kalaburagi) North, 8. Iqbal Hussain from Ramanagara, and 9. N.A. Haris from Shantinagar. Mr. Asif Sait and Mr. Hussain are the first-timer MLAs.

Janata Dal (Secular) had put 23 Muslim candidates in the fray but none could win.

Bhartiya Janata Party did not field even a single Muslim candidate to fight the Assembly election.

Muslim representation in Karnataka Assembly has been hovering around the average of 8.5 while it reached to a maximum of 17 in 1978.

In the 1978 Assembly election 16 Muslim candidates were successful while one more was added in the byelection of the same year.

Author and political commentator Syed Tanveer Ahmed says that though the average population of Muslims in Karnataka is around 13 percent, there are around 35 Assembly seats where their population is more than 15 percent. He calculates that out of these 35 seats, Muslims have a fair chance to win in around 25 seats but even in these 25, around seven seats are reserved for SC/ST candidates.

Political parties don’t find Muslim candidates from Muslim scheduled castes; the Sanperas or the snake charmers.

“There are around 250 Sanpera families left and no one cares for them to get a political worker from that community,” said Mr Tanveer Ahmed, expressing his disappointment.

According to Mr. Tanveer Ahmed, one of the reasons for the defeat of Muslim candidates is the split in the votes in the related seats between Congress and JD (S) candidates. In Kalyan Karnataka, four of the six BJP candidates won due to this split in Muslim votes.

Split in Muslim votes also helped BJP to win with very thin margin. In the Homnabad seat, Siddu Patil of Bharatiya Janata Party beat Rajshekhar Basavaraj Patil of Congress by 1594 votes while JD (S) candidate C.M. Faiz fetched 25831 votes.

Political analysts say that poverty, lack of political awareness and established political leadership are the other reasons for the less number of Muslim MLAs in Karnataka.

Mr Tanveer Ahmed says that grooming for political leadership is completely lacking. He emphasized that Muslim community should take up this grooming if they want a better representation in the Assembly. He says that the political parties field candidates based on their winnability.

“Political understanding, manoeuvring and reach among the voters are the areas where Muslim candidates need to work hard to get, first a ticket and then to win”, opined Mr. Tanveer.

He also points out the problem of lack of interest in voting among Muslim voters. He says that it is general perception that the voting percentage of Muslims is less than the state average. It is evident from the voting percentage of the constituencies where Muslim voters are in a sizeable number. He cites the example of seats like Shivajinagar, Gulbarga, Bijapur city, Bidar city, Hubli and Mangalore.

He suggested that political parties should think about the proportionality of the community in giving tickets not only at the time of election but in the run-up of the election too.

Elaborating on the political grooming, he said, “It is pertinent that the Muslim community works towards the coming Parliamentary election and for the next Assembly election from today. Political grooming is not short-term work. If the political parties would be convinced about the winnability of Muslim candidate, their chance of getting ticket would be better.”

After the issue of representation in the Assembly comes the question of Muslim representation in the state government. A controversial and BJP-backed Karnataka Wakf Board chairperson Muhammad Shafi Saadi asked for one deputy chief minister post for the Muslim community while demanding five ministerial posts. Though this demand is believed to be a political gimmick but serious observers say that there should be strong names for the representation of Muslims in the cabinet.
“A deputy chief minister from the Muslim community sounds nice but the candidate for the post should be deserving”, said Mr Tanveer, adding that all sections press hard to get a berth in the cabinet.

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