By Syed Ali Mujtaba
Even with a 9 percent Muslim population, there is a lone Muslim MLA being elected in the 182-member house in the Gujarat assembly in the election that concluded recently in 2022. Overall the ruling BJP party won a total of 156 seats, the Congress just 17 seats, and other parties that made pre-poll noises could not win a single seat, making a mockery of their tall claims.
The most alarming trend seen in the 2022 assembly election in Gujarat was that Muslims are fast becoming electorally extinct in the democratic politics of the state. In more than 25 Assembly constituencies where Muslims have the population, they could win more than one seat. The BJP won in 17 of the 19 seats that have a significant Muslim population. Other parties, including the AIMIM, and the Aam Admi party could nowhere come close to the winning margin of the elected candidates.
The victory of the BJP is remarkable because the Saffron did not field a single Muslim candidate in the 2022 assembly election in Gujarat. The last time the BJP fielded a Muslim candidate was way back in 1998. This certainly points to the fact that the BJP wants to decimate the Muslim community electorally and make them extinct in the number game that is based on the majority of votes. Even that means defying the logic and spirit of democracy and electoral practices.
This message that has time and again come out from the election results, both at the national and regional level is that Muslims have no share in the political power, even though they may constitute 14 percent of the population.
The slogan ‘Sab ka sath, sab ka Vikas’ is a bogus propaganda of the BJP that is hoodwinking the 20 crore Muslims that are falling into its trap and seeing it as its savior.
Gujarat election 2022
The population of Muslims in Gujarat is about 9.97 percent. If democracy is at fair play Muslims can get at least 18 MLAs in the state Assembly. But the 2022 election result gave them only one seat with the message that they are on the verge of becoming electorally extinct in Gujarat.
The falling trend of Muslim representation in the state Assembly is witnessed for a long time. In 2002, only 05 Muslim candidates won. In 2007, only 03 were successful. In 2012 only 02 Muslim candidates won. In 2017 the number was 03 and in 2022b just 01. The best result was in 1980 when 12 Muslim candidates won.
Blame it on Muslims
The blame game among the Muslim electorate in Gujarat is on the division of the votes due to several political parties being in the fray. The Congress, the Aam Admi Party, and the AIMIM all had fielded Muslim candidates but none could win handsomely, because of the multiple candidates, many running as independents which resulted in the split of the Muslim votes giving the BJP a comfortable victory.
For instance, in the Limbayat seat, there were a total of 44 candidates, of which 36 were Muslims. The BJP’s candidate emerged victorious, winning over 52 percent of the vote share. Similarly, at Godhra where a sizable number of Muslims are present, due to the split of their votes, the BJP’s candidate won.
The candidates of the Aam Aadmi Party lost their deposits in almost all of the 30-odd seats in which it contested. The AAP actually became the spoiler for the Congress, as in a number of assembly constituencies it split the Congress vote and gifted the BJP a victory.
The same is the case with the AIMIM that contested 13 of the 19 seats where Muslims are in majority but could not win a single seat. It’s only in Bhuj that the AIMIM gained 17.36 percent votes, but that was far behind the BJP candidate’s winning margin.
Here it needs to be reiterated that contesting elections is the birthright of political parties and independents. Blaming them for the defeat of the Muslim candidates is not going to give any solace to the community’s abysmal low representation. If Muslim votes are getting split they need to plugin such holes. They should not harm the Muslim community through reckless voting patterns and blame it on the split in votes as the reason for BJP’s victory.
There is an urgent need that Muslims should arrive at a consensus candidate and vote for them en-block to ensure that only a Muslim candidate wins. If such a kind of electoral strategy is not formulated during the pre-polling phase, none can stop Muslims from becoming electorally extinct in the country.
BJP has made the election a farce in India
Notwithstanding this fact, the BJP has turned democracy on its head and has become a master craftsman in mustering the numbers in the game of electoral politics. Time and again BJP has won the polls by exploiting the chinks in the nature and character of democracy and emerged victorious, defying the popular sentiments.
Whether it is, the state Assembly election or the National polls, the BJP has scripted victory one after in every poll since 2014. This is due to better poll management, using state power to rig the EVMs, and stopping voters from exercising their franchise. These are some of the common malpractice found in the voting practices for gaining a majority at every election in India.
Here it may be apt to mention that the recent Gujarat election saw an alarming rise in voting percentage in the last hour of voting in various seats. The Congress party has alleged that there was a 6.5 percent rise on average in voting percentage in the last hour of polling. In some seats, the rise was 11.5 percent which is humanly impossible.
The classic example was Vadodara where some seats witnessed a 10-12 percent increase in voting in the last hour. This is an impossible feat because on average about 60 seconds is needed to casting vote, but in Gujarat, votes were cast in less than 5 seconds. Modi hai to Mumkin hai!
Well, this is how democracy is exploited by the BJP which is a master in gaining a majority in each election in India. Time and again BJP has won hands down leaving the rest of the political parties blaming each other for cross-voting and handing over victory to the BJP.
This malady in the Indian electoral system of electing a majority is time and again exploited by the BJP but no political party has come forward to address this ill of democracy. The political parties expect the election commission to set things right, which is nonsocial because the election commission is at the beck and call of the ruling party.
The onus of upholding democratic values rests on political parties but so far they have failed to implement the dos and don’ts of the electoral process. The political parties by doing so are indulging in the conspiracy of silence ensuring the victory of the BJP all the time. It is because of the lack of resistance from the opposition parties to breaking the rules of democracy, the country is slipping to one-party rule.
As far as Muslims are concerned, they must realize that their dwindling numbers in the poll outcome must be arrested soon and they must make a pre-poll strategy to ensure their victory, or else they may soon become extinct in the electoral politics of India.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com