In about a month, the BJP, the self-proclaimed “largest political party in the world”, will stop having a single Muslim MP in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha. And that’s not all – the party has nothing Muslim MPs in all 31 states and union territories.
When I mentioned this on social media, one person wrote that the BJP was a truly democratic party that believed in merit. How was the party to blame if no Muslim was deemed worthy of receiving tickets? Only parties like the Trinamool Congress, the “appeasers” so to speak, believed in vote bank politics and not in picking the best person for the job. The BJP was a far too evolved party, free from any dynasty, free from the burden of having to bow to heavy “secular” credentials. The BJP gave tickets to the best people who then won and kept the party in power. And, surely, there was no greater political dharma for a party than winning elections.
Another person wrote that the BJP was just following the Constitution which prohibited discrimination based on religion. He argued that if the BJP had given tickets to Muslims just because they were Muslims, it would discriminate against Hindus.
Most of those who reacted were even more blunt – the BJP, they said, was a Hindu party married to Hindutva, advancing the Hindu cause. Why should he be held responsible for sending Muslims to Parliament?
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The BJP officially sticks to the agenda of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”. When cornered, they refuse to officially toe the Hindutva hard line. The Good Cop, Bad Cop routine assures that on the one hand, the official press statement following the Nupur Sharma fiasco said that the BJP was “committed to making India a great country where all are equal and where everyone lives with dignity…”, while on the other hand, party workers and office bearers were actively encouraged to continue the harsh rhetoric.
If BJP supporters are unable to understand why the party does not have a single Muslim when it has 301 MPs (55%) in the Lok Sabha; 95 MPs (38%) in the Rajya Sabha and 1,379 MPs (33%) in various states is a sad reflection on how the rabid fringe has truly taken control of the majority thought process.
The only two questions we need to ask ourselves in the face of the new reality of representation that will emerge on July 7 – when the term of the last Muslim BJP RS MP expires – are: does it matter? And do we care?
Yes, it really matters that in a country of about 204 million Muslims, or 15% of the population, the ruling party, in its third term, does not have a single elected Muslim representative. The “we are merit-based, blind to faith” argument doesn’t hold up: the BJP bends over backwards to get its caste arithmetic in every election, no matter how insignificant. He doesn’t hesitate to drop capable and deserving incumbents to accommodate changing caste equations. As a party, it is acutely aware of the need for caste and sub-group representation within its identified vote bank. As long as they are not Muslims.
Hindus who vote for a Hindu party do so knowing that it is not for Muslims. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem is the BJP’s doublespeak, in which it appeals to millions of Hindus on the grounds that it is not a Hindu party, but an inclusive party that will offer representation and governance to all. It does neither. And this glaring new statistic of zero representation should be a wake-up call to all non-radical BJP voters.
The Constitution of India gives us the right to practice any religion and not be discriminated against for it. The point is not that Muslims should be actively sought out and given tickets by the BJP. According to the simple law of averages, in a country where Muslims make up 15% of the population, a fair and representative process would normally result in the selection of a few Muslims. The fact that this is not so underscores the inalienable truth that the BJP actively discriminates against Muslims. If someone walks into a mall in Delhi, Kolkata or Mumbai and randomly chooses 301 people or even 55% of the people there, the chances of none of them being Muslim are next to zero.
The UK is now home to around 1.4 million people of Indian descent, around 2.5% of its population. On the other hand, it has 15 deputies of Indian origin and 15 deputies of Pakistani origin in the House of Commons. One out of 10 MPs in the House of Commons today belongs to an ethnic minority. If our imperial colonizers can walk the path of better representation and diversity of opinion, how can India’s largest party be so deaf?
As for the second question, how not to worry about Muslims absent from the Treasury benches? The BJP chastised the “elitist” culture of Congress, mocking what they called the “Lutyen gang”. They promised to tear down the walls that excluded so many from the ranks of power. The party goes out of its way to claim to ensure inclusive spaces for all. How then can he justify the exclusion of “sau mein se pandrah” from his own ranks?
There’s a reason people and communities around the world insist on diversity in the decision-making process: their presence and input produce better results. Perhaps the inclusion of Muslims in the BJP’s legislative bodies would have sensitized the party’s spokespersons to a less sectarian world than their own and averted a blunder of international proportions.
To the BJP, I say this: a political party is fundamentally different from a private dinner party; you don’t have the freedom to invite only those you want because you pay for the food. Muslims are an integral part of the blood and body of this country, and any policy that results in their exclusion from decision-making and opinion-forming processes is not an acceptable outcome in the 75th year of independence. from India. It’s important and you should care.
The writer is a Congressman from Trinamool