There has been an abysmal drop in the representation of Muslims in the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha — which after the recently concluded election is at a historic low — besides erosion in the Muslim vote for the Congress.
The Congress fielded 15 Muslim candidates in the Assembly election, but none of them managed to win. These included sitting MLAs, Cabinet ministers and popular community leaders such as Emamudin Ahmed Khan aka Durru Mian, Mahir Azad, Amin Kagzi, Zahida Khan, Amin Khan, Shaukat Ali, Naseem Akhtar Insaaf and Saleh Mohammad among others.
The fate of Congress candidate Haaji Maqbool Mandelia, the sitting MLA from Churu, hangs in the balance since election in that constituency was adjourned following the death of the BSP candidate and will now be held on Friday. However, Mr. Mandelia, who is up against BJP stalwart Rajendra Rathore, is unlikely to reverse the trend.
On the other hand, the BJP fielded four Muslim candidates, two of whom —Yunus Khan from Deedwana and Habibur Rehman from Nagaur — won.
Also, for the first time since 1952, the Congress has no Muslim legislator in its ranks. This has got the community leaders worried.
“There is definitely going to be a vacuum … we wonder how merely two candidates will be able to represent the community in the Assembly,” said Abdul Qayyum Akhtar of the All India Milli Council. “This time there was a division of Muslim votes, for instance in Kaman (Zahida Khan, Bharatpur) and Tijara (Alwar). Also, the community’s anger towards the Congress government over the Gopalgarh riots, especially in the eastern region, was a reason,” he added.
Ironically, political watchers claim that Muslims voting en masse in favour of Congress candidates was the reason the party managed to win 21 seats.
This trend was especially at work in constituencies with smaller number of Muslim votes, including Jhunjhunu, Dataramgarh, Laxmangarh and even Sardarpura, which is former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s constituency. But in constituencies with substantial Muslim votes, acute polarisation was witnessed, feel community leaders.
“In Adarsh Nagar [in Jaipur], for instance, as soon as the voting began, RSS cadres spread [the] word that Muslims were voting in large numbers. Even retired RSS cadres worked overtime, went from door to door getting Hindu voters out to vote,” said Ashfaque Kayamkhani, a political analyst from Sikar.
Another reason being attributed to the unprecedented loss is that of public image projected by Muslim candidates, who failed to bring together other voters. “In Sikar, NCP’s Wahid Chauhan was doing very good… everywhere in his campaign he had people from all castes and communities with him on the stage… but just before the elections he held a rally in Sikar, which was almost exclusively attended by Muslims… that led to a sharp polarisation of votes and he lost,” Mr. Kayamkhani said.
Community leaders admit that though the Congress pursued a policy of minority appeasement, it also did a lot for the community. “Even if towards the end, the Congress government announced several measures for Muslims… the BJP also claims it will work together with all chhattis kaum [36 communities]… so let’s see how they do,” said Mr. Akhtar.