Despite growing population, Muslim political representation shrinks in Telangana

Hyderabad: India’s Muslim population is growing. By 2060, it is estimated that the Muslim population in India will be the largest in the world. Presently, Indonesia has the largest number of Muslim population.

Between 2001 and 2011, the percentage of Muslim population in Telangana rose from 12.43 per cent to 14.46 per cent, as per household survey carried by state government. Though the government has not disclosed the survey report, it was widely reported that Muslims comprised 14.46 per cent of the state’s total population.

Shrinking political representation

Despite the glaring numbers, and KCR’s ‘Muslim-friendly’ govt that has close ties with AIMIM, political representation of the community has been shrinking dramatically in Telangana.

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The state was formed with a vision of ‘Bangaru Telangana’ (Golden Telangana) with an enriched political, social and economic environment. The leaders of Telangana movement had stressed making it a true model of participatory and transparent community involvement with an emphasis on equity and justice.

However, there is only one Muslim MLA from the ruling party in the current State Legislative Assembly – Shakeel Amir from Bodhan. Remaining seven lawmakers belong to AIMIM, representing different segments in Hyderabad’s Old City.

In 2023 Assembly elections, the ruling BRS fielded 3 Muslims, including Shakeel Aamir from Bodhan of Nizamabad district. The other two are Ali Baqri from Bahadurpura and Ibrahim Lodi from Charminar.

In 119 assembly constituencies, Congress has announced 5 Muslim names — Mohammed Ali Shabbir from Nizamabad Urban, Mohammed Feroz Khan from Nampally, Shaikh Akbar (Malakpet), Osman Bin Al Hajari (Karwan) and Mohammed Mujeebullah Shareef  from Charminar. Among the five Congress contestants only Mohammed Ali Shabbir and Mohammed Feroz Khan are in position to challenge their opponent in the ballot battle.

Uneven allocation of seats

The allocation of tickets by major political parties of Telangana – BRS and Congress – to Muslim community is lowest compared with other castes including SCs and STs.

Though less in number, powerful Reddy and Velama communities that have traditionally been land-holding communities, are a dominant force in Telangana politics. These two communities, which make less than 10 per cent of the state population, have secured a lion’s share of tickets from BRS, Congress and BJP for the Assembly polls.

BRS has allocated 43 tickets to Reddys and 10 to Velamas; Congress also has allocated 43 tickets to the Reddy community and 9 to Velama. The BJP has allocated 29 to Reddys and 8 to Velamas.

Kamma, another influential community that dominates neighbouring Andhra Pradesh politics, accounts for less than one per cent of the population in Telangana. The community has settled in some pockets in Khammam and Hyderabad outskirts. However, the community managed to get five tickets from ruling BRS while as Muslim were allocated only three tickets. Congress has also given 3 tickets to Kammas.

Munnur Kapu, Goud, Yadav and other castes besides SCs, STs also enjoy a significant clout in the political domain. Despite being less in number, their political representation is far better than Muslims.

Representation in local bodies

The leaders of local bodies such as ZPTC, MPP, and municipalities play a crucial role in politics at the grassroot level. There are 538 ZPTCs and 538 MPPs in the state and none of them is a Muslims. There are a total of 129 municipalities in the state. However, the symbolic vice-chairman positions have been given to Muslims in Urban areas.

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Division of votes

The Muslim electorate has a significant presence in all erstwhile districts from Khammam to Adilabad. Many leaders of the community perceive political representation as the most important solution for redressal of their issues. Political parties, including AIMIM ally BRS, are increasingly hesitant to field Muslims as they suspect that a Muslim candidate might lead to immediate polarisation and consolidation of Hindu votes, which was seen during 2011 by-elections of Mahabubnagar Assembly seat.

Even if polarisation is ruled out, AIMIM would adversely impact the winning probability of Muslim candidates of major political parties by fielding their own candidates where there is a substantial number of Muslim votes. Usually, the aim of AIMIM candidates in such cases is not to win the election, but to divide the Muslim votes.