Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Assembly, which will go to two-phased polls on December 9 and 14, has seen a sharp dip in Muslim representation over the last three decades, reflective of the sharp religious polarisation in the state.
Muslims account for 10% of the state’s population, but only two people from the minority community were elected as MLAs in the 182-member Assembly in the 2012 elections. This amounts to just 1% of the total legislative strength.
Both Congress and BJP have, over the years, given fewer tickets to candidates from the minority community, though the size of the Muslim population is said to be substantive enough to influence election outcomes in at least 18 seats.
In 1980, 17 Muslim candidates were in the electoral fray, out of which 12 entered the Assembly.
In the 1990 elections, only 11 Muslim candidates were given tickets and three of them won.
In the 2012 assembly elections, only five Muslims were in the fray, out of whom two were returned to the House by the electorate.
This is a sharp fall as compared to 1980 when Muslim representation in the Assembly stood at 10%, equivalent to the percentage population of the minority community in the state. Three Rajya Sabha MPs from Gujarat at the time were also Muslims.
Today, Ahmed Patel, senior Congress leader and close aide of party chief Sonia Gandhi, is the only Muslim MP from Gujarat. Patel had won by a wafer-thin margin in the fiercely contested election earlier this year.
Interestingly, Patel was one of the very few Congress candidates to buck the anti-Emergency wave in 1977 to win Lok Sabha elections from Bharoch in south Gujarat.
There is no Muslim representation from Gujarat in the current Lok Sabha.
Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi, however, claimed that his party is of the view that Muslims should be given tickets in areas where there is a possibility of them winning the elections is high. “The party gives representation to all sections of the society,” he added.
Accusing the Congress of using minorities as a vote bank, state BJP Minority Cell chief Mehboob Ali Chishti said Muslims in Gujarat want better education, housing and food more than mere representation.