There is no cause for alarm, though, because the decennial growth rate of Muslims during 2001-2011 has declined compared to earlier decades. Moreover, the growth rate of Muslims is in tune with that of the majority community in the Hindi belt and the southern states. The Muslim growth rates are declining faster in the southern states in tune with the trends for other communities. In the northern states, the decline in growth rate for Muslims is somewhat sluggish, again in keeping with the corresponding rate for other communities.
The religion-wise data for 2011 is bound to be interpreted differently by the demographers, social scientists and politicians. But, the stark reality evident from the 2014 general elections is that amidst the growth in the numbers of Muslims across the country, there is a sharp decline in the representation of this largest minority community in the Lok Sabha. Thus, in the 16th Lok Sabha, there are only 23 MPs belonging to the Muslim minority. Their share in the total strength of 543 members of Lok Sabha thus comes to a measly 4.2 percent.
There is, certainly, large-scale under-representation of Muslims compared to their population proportion of 14.2 percent. The community must have at least 77 MPs in the Lok Sabha but their number is only 23, accounting for a deficit of 54 members. There is no question of proportional representation for the minorities or other communities under the Constitution, except the reservations provided to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). But, the 16th Lok Sabha does not truly reflect the community and caste composition of the country's population, especially the Other Backward Classes (BCs) and the religious minorities.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Muslim MPs were elected only from seven states—West Bengal (8 members), Bihar (4), Jammu & Kashmir & Kerala (3 each), Assam (2) and Tamil Nadu and Telangana (one each), besides one from the union territory of Lakshadweep. These 8 sates and UT account for almost 46 percent of Muslim population in the country. These states have 179 Lok Sabha seats.
Surprisingly, there is no representation of Muslims from the remaining 22 States and six UTs, including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi. These 28 unrepresented states and UTs account for 54 percent of Muslim population in India and have 364 Lok Sabha seats.
Out of the 37 parties represented in the Lok Sabha, only 11 parties have MPs belonging to Muslim community. These include Congress and Trinamool Congress (4 Muslim MPs each), PDP (Kashmir) (3), AIUDF (Assam), IUML (Kerala), CPI-M & NCP (2 each), AIMIM, AIADMK, RJD and LJP (one each). Incidentally, 26 other parties have no representation of Muslims in the Lok Sabha. These parties include the ruling BJP and its allies like Shiv Sena, TDP and Akali Dal, besides TRS, YSRCP, BJD, SP, AAP, JD (U) and CPI. The only NDA constituent with a Muslim MP is LJP of Ram Bilas Paswan.
The Indian Constitution confers the right of adult franchise on every citizen. Nobody can disenfranchise Indian citizens, whether they are Muslims and other minorities. However, the BJP and allies have shown that without disenfranchising Muslims and other minorities, they can disempower them by denying them tickets to contest the polls on the one hand and by ensuring the defeat of minority candidates fielded by other parties on the other. This is what exactly happened in the 2014 general elections.
Now, the time has come for all political parties, as well as all secular-minded Indians, irrespective of their community, to ponder over the future of the minorities in this country if the Hindutva forces further consolidate their base to entrench themselves in power for many more years to come.
Indian democracy will become non-inclusive if almost one-fifth (19.3 percent) of the country's population, comprising mainly Muslim, Christian and Buddhist minorities, remains under-represented in the Lok Sabha. This is a challenge to both the minorities and the Indian polity to preserve and promote the country's secular ethos and to make every community an equal partner in the nation's progress and prosperity through their adequate representation in the Parliament and state legislatures.