Data from the last two parliamentary elections underline a low vote count for Muslim candidates, and a low representation in Lok Sabha. Muslims make up 14.2% of the population; in both elections, just under 10% of the candidates were Muslim. Of the winners in 2014, 22 were Muslim, the lowest ever.
The total votes cast rose from 41.71 crore in 2009 to 55.38 crore in 2014, but the votes polled by Muslim candidates fell 3.6%. Muslim candidates of 2009 polled 2.89 crore votes, or 6.9% of the total; those of 2014 polled 2.78 crore, or 5%. Muslim candidates polled an average of 34,948 votes in 2009, compared to an average 51,692 for all candidates; Muslim candidates’ average fell in 2014 when the average for all candidates rose.
In Maharashtra in 2009, 114 Muslim candidates had together polled 13.1 lakh votes, or 3.53%; in 2014, 127 nominees polled 6.5 lakh votes, or only 1.34%
In Assam, votes for Muslim candidates fell from 24.4 lakh to 19.6 lakh. Of 40 Muslims contesting 14 seats, two won. Muslims account for 34.2% of Assam’s population (2011). In Andhra Pradesh, the number of votes polled by Muslim candidates fell from 22.4 lakh to 15.6 lakh, and in Gujarat, from 4.3 lakh to 4.1 lakh.
In UP, Muslim candidates polled 73 lakh votes (13.2%) in 2009, followed by 1 crore (12.4%) in 2014. Muslims make up 18.5% of UP’s population; none of its 80 MPs is a Muslim. In Bihar, Muslim candidates polled 32.44 lakh votes in 2009 (82 candidates, 12.3%) and 43.94 lakh in 2014 (79, 12.2%).
West Bengal, with a 25% Muslim population, elected 8 Muslim MPs. In 2009, 57 candidates polled 58.13 lakh (13.6%); in 2014, 88 polled 89.42 lakh votes (17.3%).
A Muslim MP said the political climate of 2014 made it very difficult for Muslim candidates to get votes from outside their community. Some sociologists disagree.
“Data can not truly represent the complexities of constituencies. There are other factors at play… Unlike popular perception, there is a high degree of sociological plurality in the community. This diversity determines their nature of political engagement. In my mind there are many Muslim communities who do not want Muslim candidates to represent them,” said Hilal Ahmed, associate professor with the Centre for Study of Developing Societies.