ELECTORAL REPRESENTATION OF MUSLIMS IN ASSEMBLY/ LOK SABHA: 1951-2014

Indian Muslims Politics

Presented at the National Workshop on “Political Empowerment of Muslims in Telangana State: Opportunities and Challenges” at University of Hyderabad on 29th November 2016

By: Syed Amin Jafri

One of the key objectives of this workshop is to understand the causes for low levels of political empowerment of Muslims in terms of political representation, political participation and emergence of leadership and to investigate the impediments that hamper the process of political empowerment among Muslims. This technical session on the political empowerment of Muslims in Telangana is focused on issues of representation. The sub-themes include political empowerment of Muslims, electoral system and minorities representation et al.

I would like to present this paper on the “Political Empowerment of Muslims in Telugu speaking areas (Telangana and Seemandhra) in the Assembly and Lok Sabha during 1951-2014.” The study takes stock of the issue over a period of six and a half decades and presents an objective view of the under-representation of Muslims in the two key legislative bodies vis-à-vis their proportion of the population. If effective steps are not taken by the political establishment to check the imbalance, the current scenario may lead to systematic disempowerment of Muslims in the future elections.

More precisely, I focus on the representation of Muslims in terms of members of the community getting elected to the Assembly of erstwhile Composite Madras, Andhra, Hyderabad and undivided Andhra Pradesh and now Telangana State and residuary Andhra Pradesh during 1951-2014. The study also covers the number of Members of Parliament getting elected to Lok Sabha from the afore-said States during 1951-2014. Representation of Muslims in the Legislative Council and Rajya Sabha from the State is excluded from the purview of the study. Also excluded from the purview is the representation of Muslims in the panchayat raj, municipal and cooperative bodies.

THE BACKDROP:

The Telugu-speaking areas in South India, comprising what are known popularly today as Telangana and Seemandhra, following the bifurcation of united Andhra Pradesh, have had a chequered political and administrative history. The present-day Telangana State once formed part of erstwhile Nizam State. Seemandhra (now, residuary AP following bifurcation) was part of the erstwhile Madras presidency during the British rule, though these areas were originally ceded to British by Nizams of Hyderabad at the beginning of 19th century.  

Before the Nizams, the territory inhabited by Telugus formed part of Kakatiya, Bahmani, Vijayanagar and Qutub Shahi kingdoms and Mughal empire. During the reign of first Nizam, Mir Qamaruddin Ali Khan, the territory of Hyderabad State extended from Narmada to Trichinapally and from Machilipatnam to Bijapur. Between 1766 and 1800 AD, the sovereignty of Nizams declined considerably and the British gained their authority over them by compelling them to sign six treaties. First, Northern Circars were ceded to the British in 1766, followed by Southern Circars (Guntur region) in 1788 and Ceded Districts (Rayalaseema) in 1800 AD. The British acquired Nellore and Chittoor from the Nawabs of Arcot.

Thus, by the beginning of 19th century, the Telugu land was divided mainly into two distinct regions—Telangana, comprising one-third of the territory, under the Nizams, and Andhra (consisting of the larger part, namely, Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema) under the British. Both the regions were home to a sizeable Muslim community. While they formed the aristocracy in Hyderabad State, Muslims were a largely backward community in Madras Presidency.

With the Indian Independence on 15th August 1947, the British-administered Madras Presidency became Madras Province while Hyderabad State continued under the rule of Nizams. However, 13 months after Independence, on 17th September 1948, Hyderabad State was merged into the Indian Union, with  7th Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, signing the instrument of surrender following the Indian army offensive, known otherwise as Police Action. Hyderabad State, then, comprised of three distinct linguistic regions, namely, Telugu-speaking Telangana, Kannada-speaking Hyderabad-Karnataka and Marathi-speaking Marathwada.

Composite Madras State consisted of Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu speaking areas, including Ceded and Circar districts (Seemandhra). On 1st October 1953, Telugu speaking areas were carved out of Composite Madras State to form the first Telugu State, known as Andhra State, in the aftermath of the fast-unto-death undertaken by Potti Sreeramulu. Following the recommendations of the first States Reorganization Commission (SRC), both Hyderabad and Composite Madras States were trifurcated.

Telangana region of erstwhile Hyderabad State was merged with Andhra State to form Andhra Pradesh on 1st November 1956.Kannada-speaking areas of Hyderabad State were merged with Mysore State and Marathi-speaking areas with Bombay State. Similarly, Malayalam-speaking areas of Madras State were merged with Kerala and Kannada-speaking districts with then Mysore State.

For Muslims of erstwhile Hyderabad State, the Police Action that signaled the march of Indian Army and the accession of Hyderabad to Indian Union was a watershed event as it had a cataclysmic impact on them. The violent killings, plunder and loot, purge from government services and abolition of jagirs and inams  in the wake of Police Action dealt a body blow to them. Similarly, the bifurcation of Composite Madras State to form Andhra State in 1953 and trifurcation of the remaining Madras State in 1956 had a negative fall-out on the Muslims of the region.

So, when the new States were formed—namely, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh—and Marathi and Kannada-speaking areas were added to Bombay and Mysore State respectively, Muslims in these States found themselves in an unenviable situation. They did not know what the new States and the States that absorbed their areas had in store for them. There was uncertainty all around about their status, and more worries about their economic and social well-being, apart from concerns over their safety and security. Muslims in these five states—AP, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra—had to adjust to the new realities and chart out ways for their socio-economic rehabilitation.  Politics was the last thing on their minds.

Over the years—and decades—despondency gave way to hope and neglect was replaced with efforts for socio-economic well-being of Muslims. The phase of riots, particularly in AP, Karnataka and Maharashtra—saw Muslims suffer the most. The governments in the five States launched some schemes and programmes for Muslims and other minorities and set up a string of institutions and organizations to implement these schemes. Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu provided reservations for the backward sections of Muslims.  

AP was in the forefront in setting up the minority-related institutions—ranging from Wakf Board, Urdu Academy and Minorities Commission to Haj Committee,  Minorities Finance Corporation and Centre for Educational Development of Minorities. Minorities Welfare Department,  Commissionerate of Minorities Welfare and Legislature Committee on Minorities Welfare were constituted. Separate budgetary allocations were earmarked for minorities welfare. 

Loaning programmes for youth,  scholarships and fees reimbursement schemes  were launched to help minority youth and students. After the formation of Telangana State, new schemes such as Shaadi Mubarak, Overseas Study scheme, minorities residential schools and study circles, and honorarium for Imams and Muezzins of mosques were launched.  There has been a massive step-up in the allocations for minorities welfare in Telangana and residuary AP since the bifurcation of united AP in June 2014.

But, what has been the role of Muslims in AP State’s political process, what has been their representation in the State Legislature and Parliament and which parties have espoused their cause and brought them relief? In the first general elections in erstwhile Hyderabad State in 1951, the Communist Party of India (CPI), which formed a broader grouping called Progressive Democratic Front (PDF), won Assembly seats in Telangana region, including Hyderabad City, even though the Congress came to power.  

However, from the second general elections (1957) onwards, the Congress held sway in Telangana region, including Hyderabad. The Congress monopoly continued till 1983, when the nascent Telugu Desam Party (TDP) founded by Telugu film legend N T Rama Rao ousted the Grand Old Party from power in the State. From 1989 onwards, the Congress and TDP held power alternatively in united AP till 2014.

After the bifurcation, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has come to power in Telangana and the TDP regained power in residuary AP. All other parties, which sprang up from time to time, had a chequered history. Even the Communist parties—CPI and CPI-Marxist—had seen a steady decline in their political fortunes. Among the national parties, BJP has been only a marginal player in united AP and now in Telangana and AP. TDP and YSRCP have got marginalized in Telangana while Congress has hit rock bottom in residuary AP post-2014.

Muslims in Hyderabad and elsewhere in Telangana have been supportive of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), which was revived in March 1958 by eminent advocate Moulvi Abdul Wahed Owaisi. AIMIM was converted into a political party which bears true faith and allegiance to Indian Constitution and to the principles of socialism, secularism and democracy and seeks to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India.

AIMIM’s aim is to protect the rights of minorities enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Moulvi Abdul Wahed Owaisi’s singular contribution was integrating a disheartened Muslim community into India’s democratic and secular framework and its political and electoral processes. Besides Muslims, the party seeks to protect and promote the rights of Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs and Other Minorities.

AIMIM made its electoral debut in 1959 when it contested and won two civic by-elections in Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad. The party has been participating in municipal elections in Hyderabad since 1960. AIMIM nominee Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi was elected to AP Assembly in 1962. AIMIM has its presence in the Assembly since 1962 till date without any interruption.

AIMIM’s Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi was elected to Lok Sabha from Hyderabad constituency for the first time in 1984 and the party has successively won the seat for 8 more times ever since, with Barrister Asaduddin Owaisi elected for  three terms since 2004. Apart from Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), AIMIM has its presence in the other municipal corporations municipalities in Telangana. AIMIM mayors were elected in Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH) during 1986-91 and GHMC during 2012-2014.

In the 15 successive elections to the Assembly from areas comprising Telangana and Seemandhra regions, a total of 144 Muslim nominees were elected, that is, an average of less than 10 members each time. The number ranged from a low of 4 in 1955 and the highest–ever of 14 in 1972. Seven Muslim nominees were elected in 1957, eight in 1951, nine members each in 1962, 1967, 1978, 1983 and 1989, 10 members each in 1985 and 1994, 11 members each in 1999 and 2009 and 12 members each in 2004 and 2014.

Muslim nominees elected to AP Assembly, from 1962 onwards, included members of AIMIM, the local political party espousing the cause of Muslim community. The number of AIMIM members elected to Assembly ranged from one in 1962 and three each in 1967, 1972, 1978 and 1994, to four each in 1985, 1989 and 1999, five each in 1983 and 2004 and seven each in 2009 and 2014. Interestingly, the number of Muslim nominees elected on behalf of mainstream parties (national and state) ranged between 4 and 11 and it came down to 4 to 7 as the number of AIMIM nominees elected rose from 4 to 7 during 1983-2014.

Telangana region accounted for marginally higher representation of Muslim nominees, compared to Seemandhra region. The number in Telangana ranged from 5 each in 1978 and 1994 and 6 in 1989 to 7 each seven times and 8 each four times. The number in Seemandhra region ranged from one in 1962 and 2 each in 1967 and 1983, to 3 each in 1985 and 1989 and 4 each six times, 5 in 1994 and 7 in 1972.

However, the number of Muslim nominees was comparatively higher in Telangana, mainly due to increasing representation of AIMIM nominees. If we exclude the number of nominees elected on AIMIM tickets, the number of Muslim nominees of other parties comes down steeply in Telangana region. But for AIMIM, Telangana would have resembled Seemandhra in terms of Muslim representation.

Representation of Muslim nominees to Lok Sabha from areas comprising Telangana and Seemandhra regions during 1951-2014 has been low. In the 16 general elections, a total of 28 Muslim nominees were elected and the number ranged from one each seven times to 2 each six times and 3 each three times. The average number of Muslim nominees elected in the 16 general elections since 1951 came to less than two each time.

From Telangana region, one Muslim nominee each was elected to Lok Sabha eight times and two Muslim nominees each for another eight times. From Seemandhra region. one Muslim nominee each was elected to Lok Sabha four times while there was zero representation from that region 12 times. 

Incidentally, AIMIM nominees have been elected from Hyderabad constituency for 9 times, Including Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi six times and his son Barrister Asaduddin Owaisi three times. The number of Muslim nominees of other (mainstream) parties elected ranged from one each six times and 2 each four times to 3 each twice. No Muslim nominee of mainstream parties was elected in 1998, 1999, 2009 and 2014. But for AIMIM, Telangana would have resembled Seemandhra with no Muslim nominee of mainstream parties elected in five successive general elections (1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014).

It is obvious that the representation of Muslim nominees in the Assembly and Lok Sabha from Telangana and Seemandhra regions has been quite low during 1951-2014. The numbers could have been fewer but for AIMIM, whose nominees were elected to the Assembly in all the elections since 1962 and to the Lok Sabha in all the general elections from 1984 onwards. As a result, AIMIM has emerged as the party representing the cause of Muslim community while the mainstream parties seem to have vacated some space for AIMIM.

Incidentally, all the AIMIM MLAs since 1962 have been elected from constituencies within Hyderabad. AIMIM nominees have been elected to Lok Sabha only from Hyderabad constituency since 1984. This means that only the Muslim nominees of mainstream parties have been successful in getting elected from constituencies outside Hyderabad (rest of Telangana and Seemandhra).

From this analysis, it is obvious that while AIMIM achieved electoral success in Assembly elections since 1962 and Lok Sabha elections since 1984 in Hyderabad, it is the mainstream parties (national, state and regional) that have been ruling the roost in rest of Telangana and Seemandhra. It is also evident that Muslim voters have been voting for mainstream parties in rest of Telangana and Seemandhra while they are largely backing AIMIM in Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency and up to seven Assembly constituencies within Hyderabad. 

While there has been consolidation of Muslim voters behind AIMIM in Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency and 7 assembly constituencies within Hyderabad district, Muslim voters have preferred the mainstream parties outside Hyderabad, partly because there is no substantive concentration of Muslims or there is no preponderant presence of AIMIM in other areas outside Hyderabad (that is, rest of Telangana and Seemandhra).

Also, it has been observed that Muslims outside Hyderabad have tended to support the political parties (national, state and regional) with which AIMIM has been “friendly” at the time of elections. This has happened in 1983, 1985, 1989, 1994, 2004, 2009 and 2014 Assembly elections and 1984, 1989, 1991, 2004, 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections.  

It is also seen that substantial numbers of Muslim voters have also tended to vote for mainstream parties (national, state and regional) in tune with the trends of voters of other communities. If the Congress is preferred in the particular elections or TDP is the popular choice in some other elections, the mood of Muslim voters is also similar to that of voters of other communities.

From 1951 till 1978 assembly elections, mainly Muslim nominees of Congress were elected. In 1983, 1985, 1994 and 1999, mainly TDP’s Muslim candidates  were elected. In 1989, 2004 and 2009, Muslim nominees of Congress party were elected. However, the number of Muslim members elected to the Assembly fluctuated during this period. 

In 2014, a lone Muslim nominee of TRS was elected to the Assembly in rest of Telangana (outside Hyderabad) and four YSR Congress Party (YSRCP)’s Muslim nominees were elected to the Assembly in Seemandhra. Among others, a single Muslim nominee of CPI was elected nine times and a lone Muslim nominee of CPI-M was elected two times in erstwhile united AP. Three Muslim nominees of PDF sponsored by CPI were elected way back in 1951.

In Lok Sabha elections in Telangana and Seemandhra areas from 1951 onwards, mainly Congress party’s Muslim nominees were elected in 10 general elections.

A lone Telangana Praja Samithi’s Muslim nominee was elected in 1971 and a TDP’s Muslim candidate was elected in 1991.

AIMIM’s candidates were elected from Hyderabad 9 times during 1984-2014. This showed the preference of Muslim voters for Muslim nominees of Congress or AIMIM in Lok Sabha elections, with the exception of election of a TPS’ Muslim member in 1971 and a TDP’s Muslim member in 1991.

After the formation of Telangana State, the Assembly of undivided AP was bifurcated. There are now 8 Muslim MLAs in Telangana and four Muslim MLAs in residuary AP. There is a lone Muslim Lok Sabha member from Telangana while there is none from residuary AP.

Incidentally, seven out of 8 Muslim MLAs and lone Muslim Lok Sabha member from Telangana belong to AIMIM. There is only one Muslim MLA in TRS. The four Muslim MLAs in residuary AP were elected on YSRCP banner and one of them defected to TDP after the elections.

After bifurcation of united AP, there are 44,64,699 Muslims In Telangana, accounting for 12.75 percent of total population of the State and 36,17,713 Muslims in the residuary AP, constituting 7.3 percent of the State’s total population as per 2011 census.

Looked at this way, Muslim representation comes to barely 6.7 percent in the current 119-member Telangana Assembly and 2.3 percent in 175-member AP Assembly. Muslim representation in Lok Sabha from Telangana is 5.9 percent (only one Member out of 17 MPs), and zero percent in AP (no Muslim member out of 25 MPs). This is the sad state of affairs with regard to empowerment of Muslims in these Telugu states.

THE WAY FORWARD:   

In conclusion, one can say that the representation of Muslims in the State Assembly and in Lok Sabha from Telangana/Seemandhra regions during 1951-2014 has been quite inadequate. The representation of Muslims has been way below their proportion of population, thereby indicating under-representation from election to election, with little improvement in the situation.

Muslims have tended to vote for mainstream parties in the rest of Telangana and Seemandhra while they have been consolidating behind the local political party, AIMIM, in Hyderabad City, since 1962 Assembly elections and 1984 Lok Sabha elections.

The strength of AIMIM grew from a lone MLA in 1962 to seven in 2014, though only a single AIMIM nominee has been getting elected to Lok Sabha from Hyderabad constituency since 1984. The number of Muslim nominees elected to the Assembly has ranged between 4 and 14. The number of Muslim nominees elected to Lok Sabha has ranged between one and three.

The mainstream political parties (national, state and regional) have tended to give party nominations for contesting Assembly elections to fewer Muslims in successive elections. Similarly, the mainstream parties have tended to offer nominations to one or two Muslim nominees in the successive general elections, barring the 1951 Lok Sabha elections.

AIMIM has consolidated its support base in Hyderabad, particularly Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency and seven Assembly constituencies in Hyderabad district. AIMIM has not been able to get its nominees for Assembly elections elected outside Hyderabad, though the party has tended to influence the voting pattern in favor of particular national, state or regional parties in the successive Assembly and Lok Sabha elections outside Hyderabad, more particularly in Telangana districts.

The situation is different in Seemandhra (residuary AP State) now. The two main parties in the State are TDP and YSRCP, with BJP having nominal presence and the Congress being reduced to the status of zero representation in the Assembly.

Muslim community has been getting a raw deal in Seemandhra region, despite its presence in large numbers, especially in the four Rayalaseema districts—Kurnool, Kadapa, Anantapur, Chittoor—as well as south coastal districts—Nellore, Prakasam, Guntur and Krishna.

There remains a big question mark on the representation of Muslim community in AP Assembly and in Lok Sabha from that State, even though the strength of AP Assembly is likely to go up from 175 now to 225 as envisaged in AP Reorganization Act. Both the TDP and YSRCP need to give more tickets to Muslim nominees in the forthcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

In Telangana, the ruling party—TRS—and the main opposition Congress need to give party nominations to more number of Muslims to contest the Assembly elections. Each of them also need to give tickets to two to three candidates of Muslim community to contest Lok Sabha elections.

AIMIM would also need to focus on more Assembly constituencies in Hyderabad and rest of Telangana, especially when the number of Assembly seats is likely to go up to 153 with fresh delimitation as provided in AP Reorganization Act. Apart from Hyderabad, AIMIM needs to contest one or two more Lok Sabha seats such as Secunderabad and Zaheerabad.  (eom)