For Muslim Presidents, Vice Presidents

Either you are at the ‘top’ or you are nowhere. This seems to be the predicament of the Muslims of India. Even at the bottom of the ladder their representation is awfully low.

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Either you are at the ‘top’ or you are nowhere. This seems to be the predicament of the Muslims of India. Even at the bottom of the ladder their representation is awfully low.

The disproportionately high percentage of Muslim Presidents always intrigues many in India. Now it is the turn of the Vice Presidents. After the UNPA decided to put up former MP, Rasheed Masood, it is the turn of the Left and UPA to ‘play’ the Muslim card. And the BJP-led NDA did not want to lag; hence Najma Heptullah also in the fray.

Mohammad Hamid Ansari, former Ambassador and former Special Representative to the United Nations, ex-Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University and at present Chairman of National Minority Commission is now the Left-UPA candidate for that post. Ansari was a career diplomat before he retired.

This is for the first time that two major contenders for the post of Vice President are Muslim. Apparently there is nothing unusual. As equal citizens of the country Muslims have every right to contest for any post in the country.

The issue is not just Hamid Ansari or Rasheed Masood, but the love of our political class for Muslim Presidents and Vice Presidents. We already had three Muslim Presidents – Zakir Hussain, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, and A P J Abdul Kalam. We had equal number of Muslim Vice Presidents. Though Muslims constitute just 15 per cent of the population we had three out of 12 Presidents from the community, that is, 25 per cent. Similar is the percentage of the Vice President.

One does not need to compare this figure with the Muslims working anywhere in the government or private jobs. It is known to all and there is no need of any other Commission for that. Their percentage is never more than seven to eight per cent. At the top level in bureaucracy, technocracy, judiciary, army, media, academics, company executives, etc. their percentage is never more than one or two per cent.

Discrimination in jobs, especially for the sensitive posts, may be understandable but why is it that there is such a glaring under-representation of Muslims in state assemblies and Parliament? In Parliament their percentage never reached two figure marks and in the state assembly the less said is better.

In about a dozen of our states and Union Territories the number of Muslim MLAs is either one or even less – that is, negligible. With the advent of the BJP phenomenon in the early 1990s their figure went down further. In big states like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, etc. Muslim legislators are now a rare species.

Apart from Jammu and Kashmir, perhaps Muslims cannot stake claim anywhere in the country for the post of chief minister. In contrast Christians, with just two per cent population, always had two to three chief ministers – no, not only in Goa or North East, but even in Chhattisgarh (Ajit Jogi till sometimes back) and Rajasekhara Reddy of Andhra Pradesh. Ironically, we do not have any Christian President till yet, though we had a Sikh – Zial Singh – at the top.

Is it that neither the Congress nor the opposition parties has enough Muslims to field in the assembly or Parliament? Or is it that the percentage of Muslims losing the election much higher now? Maybe, both. But then why is it that none of our secular parties is so eager to increase the representation of Muslims not only in job sectors but also in assemblies and Parliament?

It is not that Muslims are not getting appropriate representation now. The phenomenon started just after independence. Similarly, foisting Muslim as President is the phenomenon, which started in 1960s. The distinction goes to Indira Gandhi. Out of four Presidents who got elected during her reign two were Muslims.

Is it the best way to befool the community?