The battle for the Muslim vote has now been joined by the BJP,led by Narendra Modi. However,as figures across the country show,the community finds little representation in power,irrespective of which party is ruling.
Of the 28 states in the country,13 have no Muslim ministers. That includes all the four states ruled by the BJP,where the party has no Muslim MLA either.
Just 57 of the total 609 ministers across various states,or 9.35 per cent,are Muslim. As per the 2001 Census,Muslims make up 13.43 per cent of the population. Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir accounts for as many 18 of those 57 ministers. If J&K is taken out,the entire country has all of 39 Muslim ministers.
The BJP-ruled states,be it Gujarat (with 9.06 per cent of its population Muslim),Chhattisgarh (1.97 per cent),Goa (6.84 per cent),or Madhya Pradesh (6.37 per cent),have no Muslim minister or MLA belonging to the party. Punjab,ruled by the Akali Dal-BJP combine,also does not have a Muslim minister,although the Akali Dals Malerkotla MLA is Muslim.
Congress-ruled states do not fare any better. In Uttarakhand,which has a sizeable Muslim population 11.92 per cent the Congress has Muslim MLAs but none of them is a minister.
Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh again has no Muslim minister,though their population here is only 2 per cent.
The partys government in Haryana,where Muslims make up a good 5.78 per cent of the population,has only one Muslim minister. A more striking example is that of Andhra Pradesh,where 10 per cent of the population is Muslim and which had a long history of Muslim rule. Only one of its 37 Congress ministers is Muslim.
In Congress-ruled Assam where Bangladeshi infiltration is a hot political issue,only three of the 19 ministers are Muslim. Assam has the highest percentage of Muslims in the country after J&K,at 30.9 per cent of the population. Congress-ruled Delhi has one Muslim in the seven-member Cabinet.
After J&K,the best state in Muslim representation in terms of numbers is the Samajwadi Party-ruled Uttar Pradesh,where 10 out of the total 51 ministers are Muslims. The proportion of Muslims in the states population is 18.55 per cent.
Then follows Congress-ruled Kerala,with 5 ministers out of 20 Muslim. Muslims make up 24.6 per cent of the states numbers.
In another ex-Left stronghold now ruled by the Trinamool Congress,West Bengal,5 of the 44 ministers are Muslim (they comprise 25 per cent of the population). West Bengal was rapped by the Sachar Commission report for the status of its Muslims.
In the fifth state where the proportion of Muslims is higher than the national average (16.5 per cent),and which may see the sharpest fight for the Muslim vote,the JD(U)-ruled Bihar,there are two Muslim ministers. The same as Karnataka,which became the first southern state to be ruled by the BJP,till the Congress won the state elections this year.
Most of the Northeast states,with their minuscule Muslim population,do not have a Muslim minister or a Muslim MLA. Meghalaya (where Muslims make up 4.28 per cent of the population) has one Muslim MLA,who is also the Assembly Speaker.
Barring in J&K,Muslim ministers do not hold high-profile portfolios such as Home,Finance or Industries. In Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal though,Azam Khan and Firhad Hakim look after the crucial Urban Development Department.
In J&K,Muslims make up 66.97 per cent of the population and 75 per cent of the Cabinet (18 out of 24).
Former IAS officer Dr Mahmood-Ur-Rahman,who last week submitted a report to the Maharashtra government recommending 8 per cent reservations for Muslims in the state,believes there should be political reservation for the Muslim community.
A lot of times political parties have got away by giving token representation to Muslims. The absence of Muslims in positions to influence policies is one of the reasons for their present situation. If it wants to uplift the community,the government should give proportional representation to Muslims in cabinet.