Thursday, June 13, 2024

In a first in India’s history, no Muslim took oath as Union Minister

President Droupadi Murmu with the Prime Minister and other members of the Union Council of Ministers at Rashtrapati Bhavan after the swearing-in-ceremony.

This is the first time in independent India that no Muslim took the oath as a Union minister after a General Election.

The outgoing council of ministers led by Narendra Modi did not have a Muslim minister after BJP’s Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was not re-elected to Rajya Sabha in 2022, three years after he took the oath as Minorities Affairs Minister. The 64-year-old politician was the only Muslim minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which boasts nearly 400 MPs.

The previous councils of ministers sworn in after every General Election in Independent India had at least one Muslim MP in them.

In 2014, when PM Narendra Modi took the oath for the first time, Najma Heptulla was sworn in and made the Minority Affairs Minister. In 2019, Naqvi was sworn in and he too became the Minority Affairs Minister.

In 1999, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had two Muslims in the council of ministers — Shahnawaz Hussain and Omar Abdullah. In 1998, the Vajpayee-led ministry had Naqvi as Minister of State.

The council of ministers in Congress-led UPA governments in 2004 and 2009 had four and five Muslim MPs respectively.

This time, no Muslim candidate from NDA allies got elected to the 18th Lok Sabha, though only one Muslim candidate contested in the polls in BJP ticket, in Kerala’s Malappuram constituency. A Muslim was fielded in Bihar’s Kishanganj by JD(U), the NDA partner, but failed to win against the Congress candidate.

There are only 24 Muslim MPs in the 18th Lok Sabha: 21 from the INDIA alliance, one Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM, and independent MPs Abdul Rashid Sheikh or ‘Engineer Rashid’ and Mohmad Haneefa from J&K.

This time, the ruling NDA also doesn’t have a Sikh or Christian MP in their list of 293 MPs. However, non-elected Christian and Sikh leaders were added to the union ministry.

Political analyst and former editor Saba Naqvi wrote on X: “As they have done with Christian and Sikhs by inducting non elected people into cabinet, it would be good form for Modi regime to induct a Muslim, 14 per cent of India’s population. On TV last night both JD U and TDP spokies told me not to critique as this is not final cabinet. N Chandrababu Naidu, and Nitish Kumar, Even cosmetic civilities have some meaning when India engages with the world.”

The Hindu nationalist BJP’s election campaign was marked by hate and genocidal comments against Muslims, India’s largest religious minority, with Narendra Modi himself delivering over a hundred hate speeches.

Over the last ten years under Modi, religious minorities, including Muslims and Christians, have faced a range of violence, from Hindu right-wing street violence to state-sponsored actions.

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