108 Muslim candidates in the fray in Delhi
The Delhi assembly elections on Dec 4 will see a slight increase in the participation of Muslim candidates from various political parties compared to the 2008 polls. The BSP has fielded the highest number of Muslim candidates along with Samajwadi Party,
Of the 810 candidates fielded for the 70 seats, a total number of 108 Muslims have been fielded - comprising 13 percent. In 2008, 92 Muslim candidates were fielded of the total 875 fighting the polls.
Muslims account for 11 percent of the 11.5 million voters in Delhi. The 70-member Delhi assembly has only five Muslim legislators.
"It is not just Delhi, but in all the state assemblies in the country Muslims have less representation," Sanjay Kumar, fellow at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and author of the book 'Changing Electoral Politics in Delhi', told IANS.
Of the five Muslim lawmakers, four are from the ruling Congress. They belong to areas with sizeable Muslim population, including unauthorised and resettlement colonies - and comprise a major vote share of the oldest party in the country.
Around eight constituencies in Delhi have Muslim population of around 30-40 percent. These include Okhla, Mustafabad and Seelampur in east Delhi and Matia Mahal and Ballimaran in the Walled City.
Fielding a non-Muslim candidate in these seats is considered to be suicidal.
Kumar pointed out that elections in these constituencies are fought on local issues.
This time, the Congress has fielded six Muslim candidates, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has given a ticket to only one Muslim.
But it is the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which has given tickets to the highest number of 11 Muslims.
"We give representation to all communities, unlike other parties. In 2008, we fielded six Muslim candidates, this time we have fielded 11," BSP's Delhi in-charge Ram Achal Rajbhar told IANS.
Samajwadi Party's Delhi president Usha Yadav said: "We have fielded 11 Muslim candidates this time."
Congress minister Haroon Yusuf, the most well known Muslim politician of Delhi, will seek a straight fifth term as MLA from Ballimaran in the Walled City. Yusuf reasoned that it is the "absolute secular credentials" of the Congress which fetches the party Muslim votes.
"Congress is a secular party and it wins elections not because of the religion of the candidates but the work done by them," Yusuf told IANS.
Asif Mohammad Khan, MLA from Okhla who recently joined the Congress from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) told IANS: "It is due to my chances of winning that the Congress has given me a ticket."
Okhla constituency will see the maximum number of Muslim candidates. Of the total 18 candidates, 11 are Muslims.
Senior Congress leaders had expressed serious reservations over Khan being given the party ticket as he has several criminal charges against him. But the backing of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit got him the ticket, Congress party sources said..
The main opposition BJP has fielded a lone Muslim candidate in Mohammad Nizamuddin, an advocate from Matia Mahal. which is the stronghold of four-time sitting Janata Dal-United legislator Shoaib Iqbal. Iqbal quit the Lok Janshakti Party to join JD-U in October this year.
Asked the reason for fielding just one Muslim, Delhi BJP chief Vijay Goel told IANS: "We don't see religion, we see the winnability of the candidates. We give tickets to those who are deserving."
The fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has fielded six Muslim candidates in its debut year, including prominent party face Shazia Ilmi.
Ilmi will contest against Congress' sitting MLA Barkha Singh in R.K. Puram in south Delhi which has few Muslims.
With AAP creating ripples on the political landscape of Delhi, it would be interesting to see whether it can eat into the Congress' Muslim vote share.
(Posted on 02-12-2013)