While Muslims have remained on the sidelines of some of India’s institutions – including the army, the police, the judiciary and the administrative service since 1947, their political representation was far more significant up until recent years. Between 1980 and 2014, the number of Muslim MPs in the lower house of the Indian parliament diminished by more than half. This evolution is all the more significant as the share of Muslims in the Indian population rose during the same period. Consequently, the gap between their proportion of the population (which rose from 11.1 to 14.2%) and that of their elected representatives in the Lok Sabha (which dropped from 9 to 4.2%) increased fivefold, jumping from two to ten percentage points. Responsibility for this trend lies primarily with the BJP, which has only ever endorsed very few Muslim candidates. In 2014, it fielded 7 Muslim candidates out of 428 (or less than 2%) and none were elected. For the first time in India’s history, the winning party in the general elections had no Muslim in its parliamentary group in the Lok Sabha and therefore, a state like Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, where Muslims make up over 18% of the population and where the BJP won 71 out of 80 seats, did not have a single Muslim MP (compared to 6 in 2009 and 10 in 2004). The BJP decision not to field any Muslim candidates aimed to liberate the party entirely from the “Muslim vote” that other parties were accused of wooing for electoral gain at the expense of the Hindu majority. The formation of a Hindu vote bank by the BJP, which in particular aimed to sideline minorities in the political arena, prompted other parties as well no longer to nominate Muslim candidates, except in areas with a high Muslim majority. This tactic was especially clear in the Congress’ case, which the BJP accused of cultivating a Muslim vote bank. In 2014, the Congress fielded 27 Muslim candidates out of 462 (less than 6% of the total).

SPINPER examines the situation at the state level in order to compare it with the one prevailing at the Lok Sabha level. When Muslim MLAs are still elected, SPINPER analyses their social profile in order to understand their resilience better.