Head, Department of Political Science Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad
TELANGANA has fallen prematurely in the electoral grip due to ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS)'s decision to dissolve the state assembly, nine-months ahead of its term.
The decision is undoubtedly strategic for many reasons. First, unlike in 2019, early elections fought on regional agenda gives TRS an edge over other parties. In other words, the last-minute charisma of Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi will not be an influencing factor. Second, they will dilute anti-incumbency as the opposition will be unable to channelise the discontent of the electorate. Third, the TRS appears to have a tacit understanding with BJP and AIMIM to avoid the brunt of extreme polarisation to its disadvantage. Finally, the Congress’ election machineryis more engaged in the forthcoming assembly elections of Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh, giving breathing space to TRS.
Be that as it may, the most surprising is the TRS first list of 105 has only two Muslim candidates. Undoubtedly, the deliberate denial of candidature from minority communities is symptomatic example of the populist majoritarian impulse. It casts the very survival of representative democracy rooted in the idea of inclusive citizenship in doubt.
Muslims, as per the 2011 census, constitute 12.68 per cent of Telangana's population with a sizeable presence in five of the 10 districts or 35 out of 119 assembly constituencies. A slight change in the Muslim vote may impact the electoral fate of political parties.
In the 2014 assembly, there were eight Muslims including 7 from AIMIM and one from TRS. The recent local elections were also disappointing as Muslim representation was far less compared to their population.
It is difficult to understate the growing trivialisation of Muslims in the political space of India and its states. Is the idea of 'people' in democracy inclusive of minorities? Are Muslims not needed to partake in the governance of their own state? Let the present Telengana CM K. Chandrasekhar Rao answer these questions as he claims that his party alone embodies the will of the people of Telangana.
Undoubtedly, TRS’ track record was not unfavourable to Muslims in Telangana with their socio-economic and cultural concerns fairly addressed. Nonetheless, social, economic and political empowerment should not be delinked with political empowerment. The TRS's attempt to deny candidacy to Muslims on grounds of winnability and polarisation is denial of equal opportunity for political empowerment.
This points to an uncomfortable truth: It is easy to be generous with minorities while formulating certain schemes but without conferring actual political power. This exclusionary instinct is becoming stronger even among the so-called regional parties as a tool to contain the growth of right-wing fervour in India.
Arguing for fair representation of Muslims in political bodies does not mean that Muslim leaders should speak only on Muslim issues alone. This has never been the case. The denial of candidacy to minorities is not judicious. Political denial not only disenfranchises the minorities but deprives India of its classical heritage of promoting diversity and pluralism through the participatory governance model.