A fairer share
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When Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party took over the reins of government in Uttar Pradesh, it boasted of heavy Muslim support, discomfiting the outgoing BSP. Sixty nine Muslims from various parties were elected to the UP assembly. Yet, questions have often been raised about the inadequacy of Muslim representation in UP politics.
However, recent municipal elections for 630 nagar nigams, nagar palika parishads and nagar panchayats in UP, held over June and July, demolish this perception. Not only have Muslims been well represented in all municipal bodies, their presence is proportionately greater than their share in the state's population, which is 18.5 per cent.
In fact, the proportion of Muslim MLAs and MPs in UP has always exceeded their share in the population. Some suggest that they have been used as votebanks by parties that espouse the "Muslim cause". However, the political empowerment of Muslims in urban and semi-urban areas, evident in the 2012 municipal elections, punctures this votebank theory.
The State Election Commission does not provide any data on the basis of religion, but it has put the names of all the 12,000-odd elected representatives of 630 civic bodies on its website. Scanning the lists, one finds that out of 11,816 seats, Muslims have won 3,681, that is, 31.15 per cent of the seats. This is a striking jump, compared to the 17.12 per cent share of Muslims in the UP assembly elections in 2012 and the 8.75 per cent share in the parliamentary elections of 2009.
This increased representation of Muslims is not confined to any one region of UP. Rohilkhand, with a 34 per cent Muslim population, tops the list with 53.5 per cent Muslim representation in various municipal bodies. This is followed by Awadh, west UP, east UP and east UP (north). Even in Bundelkhand with 6.69 per cent, and the Doab with 11.2 per cent Muslim populations, the Muslim share in civic bodies is higher, at 8.87 per cent and 15.62 per cent respectively. If we look at specific civic bodies, the trend is mirrored — there there are 88 per cent Muslim members in Mubarakpur (Azamgarh) and Kakrala (Badayun) nagar palika parishads, and 93 per cent Muslim members in Kheri (Lakhimpur) and Kithor (Meerut) nagar panchayats. These four places represent different regions — east UP, Rohilkhand, Awadh and west UP, respectively. This holds true of other sub-regions too.
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